Thursday 8 November 2012

Dear John Lewis,

Hi. Yesterday I went in to your store in Cambridge to buy a new computer printer. Not a cheap game, I spent best part of £200 in your store. My old one, being a Kodak, is broken. Don't buy a Kodak.

I hitched my bike trailer up and rode in to town. When I got to the Grand Arcade Cycle Park it was full, I had to wait to get somewhere to lock up my bike and trailer. The sign outside for the car park (I note that motorists get a nice flashy sign telling them if there is space; cyclists get an unlabelled basement) told me there was loads of space there.

I walked up stairs to your second storey computer department, along the full length of the shopping centre, bought my printer, and headed out again. Thus I had to carry my (heavy, bulky) printer all the way back.

The comparison with how I'd have fared by car is interesting. I believe you've got a 'customer collections' desk by your little side entrance; I've frequently seen cars illegally parked in the bus stops next to it with folk collecting goods to put in the boot. There's also the entrance to level 3 of the car park right next to your computer department, and while I was there I couldn't fail to spot people walking straight out and straight to their cars stopped right at the doors.

Now I know that as a cyclist I can be expected to be fitter and harder working than a typical motorist, but come on John Lewis, do I really have to hump boxes the full length of the shopping centre and through a cramped basement built for far fewer cycles than are typically locked up there? Have you even considered that half of all people in Cambridge have a bike, that a fifth of trips here are made by bike, and that in making needlessly hard to get goods out of your shop by bike you're going to lose trade?

The bottom line is that next time I need a 'big ticket' item I'm going to the Beehive Centre. Where there are bike racks by the doors of your competitors shops. There are several pieces of homeware I'll be needing shortly; this is very shortly going to cost you that trade.

Will you, please, do something to make collections of big ticket items by bike (cargo bikes, bike trailers etc.) feasible?


A frustrated (currently) ex-customer.


  1. And it's worth mentioning that people who cycle to shops spend MORE than people who drive.

    I don't have a source for that information, but our MP, Dr Julian Huppert, did bring it up in the House of Commons. It'd be nice if John Lewis listened to useful stuff like that to, you know, do things like improve their turnover.

    1. Quite. Cyclists make more trips, they're exposed to shop marketing more often. Cater better for cyclists and you make more money. Make me trapse across the entire site to get to and from my bike trailer and next time, I guarantee I'll shop elsewhere.

  2. RadWagon: I believe it's not that the individual cyclists spend more, but that you can fit more shoppers per square m of parking space and collectively 10 cyclists spend more than the occupants of one car. There is a study backing this up, but I can't remember where I've seen it.

    Consequence is that in somewhere like Cambridge, where space is limited and everything is at capacity, it makes more sense to prioritize cycle parking over car parking. But traders are not receptive to the idea because they consistently over-estimate the number of their customers who arrive by car. See studies from Bristol and Germany.

    However I don't think your on to much here Gnomeicide. Parking is under the management of the Grand Arcade, not individual shops. While cyclists might be responsible for big-ticket small items such as electronics, most cyclists aren't going to use their bikes for physically large items. Not sure how widespread bike trailer use is in Cambridge, even given the large number of cyclists.

    1. On ride in today, counted four of the 'children in a bucket' style of Dutch bikes. And I'll see trailers on bikes usually at least once a day. So not the most common vehicles, but sufficiently common to make it worthwhile taking provision for them seriously. I'd expect major retail centres to make it possible to make collections by bike in a city like Cambridge.

      While you're right that parking will be controlled by the owners of the shopping centre, I think it fair to assume that those at the flagship stores therein will have influence, or could at least make some provision, e.g. to take goods down to the bike park with a trolley of some sort, to be willing to come to the side door with a product for collection, etc. Simply makes good business sense - could (and will) next time I need something similar go to the Beehive, where I can lock my bike up right outside the door of most of the shops.

    2. e.g. to take goods down to the bike park with a trolley of some sort, to be willing to come to the side door with a product for collection,

      Did you ask? I'm sure they'd be willing. This is, after all, John Lewis...