Newest Review: ... I can cycle to the train station in my new location. The staff were very helpful, they showed me a selection of helmets that would fit me ... more
Halfords - poor experiences
Member Name: julwhite
Advantages: Good range of products
Disadvantages: Disinterested staff, charging for bags, poor store management
This review is specifically for the Wellingborough and Norwich branches of Halfords, but is also a general review of the chain.
Halfords is a retailer which have both high street and retail park outlets selling car related items, bike related items and some car audio equipment for example. There are also sections for car maintenance, car seats for babies and children and general maintenance.
My experience of Halfords has changed over the years, unfortunately for the worse. The Norwich branch was closed some time ago in the city centre, although there is an out of centre outlet which is larger, but this used to offer good service. By this, I was especially grateful for the technical advice on bike and cars, with knowledgeable and helpful staff.
Halfords opened up a chain of bike stores with a different branding, which they have been rebranding back into the parent name again. It's a shame that this concept didn't work, as it was a useful place to buy a bike from, and get some extra equipment from. In Norwich, the cycle store has been rebranded back into Halfords, although the cycle section is still a large part of the store.
The layout in the Norwich store was always a bit haphazard, with too many products crammed into the store to really make it easy to look at the bikes. Although the staff would be helpful, if the store had just a few people in, it could be hard to get round, and maybe selling bikes in a city centre store isn't the best place to do it.
I was looking at purchasing a bike and was going past the Wellingborough branch, so thought it was worth a look as a guide as it was a large outlet. The store has two floors, with cycle equipment upstairs and generally car equipment downstairs.
The staff upstairs didn't offer any unrequested assistance, although as a matter of personal preference, I prefer it like this, as I'm happy to browse around a store without the need for help, unless I ask for it. The staff though weren't immediately obvious, and were generally chatting to each other, so it would have been hard to attract their attention anyway.
Selection wise, the range was quite poor, although the range of prices was very good, from cheap bikes right up to bikes of over a thousand pounds. The bikes were clearly displayed and priced, and there was a lot more space than in the city centre stores. There was only limited information about each bike though, so it wasn't always clear what features they had.
Accessories wise, there was a good selection, but the prices were very high. Prices of items such as puncture repairs, inner tubes, cycling helmets, were all more expensive than the average cycle shop that I've been in, but of course, the overheads for the store are much more, so the extra price is understandable.
We selected a few purchases and went to pay, and the staff had little or no interest. One poor woman was trying to deal with a queue of over ten people, and although another man came to help, it was not sensible having sales assistants standing about chatting whilst customers were trying to pay.
The payment process was also hopeless, one item came up on the till incorrectly priced, and on reviewing it, which took some time and an internal call to another member of staff, the price was corrected. As you would expect, they accept a wide range of payments, including cards and cash.
At this time, the gentleman at the counter opposite decided to walk out of the store as he had spent several hundred pounds, but the sales assistant was charging him 2p for each carrier bag. It seemed madness, greedily charging a lot for the items, and then trying to add on a few more pence, and I quite admired his just walking out leaving the items on the counter. The member of staff dealt with the whole situation badly however, and the sale was lost unnecessarily.
We were also charged for bags, and found this a ridiculous thing to do given the location of the store. It was raining, and it wouldn't necessarily be a place like a supermarket where you would think to bring a bag, especially if you hadn't intended to buy something, or were making an emergency purchase of a car related item.
Overall, this was a poor experience. It may have just been the Wellingborough branch of Halfords has some issues with management, or maybe it was just an unfortunate set of circumstances, but as a customer, it irritated me enough not to want to return, and to instead buy items from retailers on-line, or smaller outlets, where there is at least some customer service.
Summary: Will make an effort to buy from smaller retailers with better customer service