Last night I was lucky enough to be able to attend the grand opening of a groundbreaking new enterprise in Surbiton.
I believe this is the country’s first bike shop created and run specifically for women.
It was a lush affair. There were drinks; nibbles and cupcakes.
There were celebrities; the fabulous Lizzie Armistead and Tiffany Cromwell from team Specialized Lululemon.
There were auction lots to die for, although people were encouraged to bid for them instead. I bid on the stunning Specialized Lululemon team kit but the price slipped swiftly out of my budget. Also on offer were top of the line Specialized road shoes, signed by the ladies; a signed, limited edition print of Lizzie and a training weekend in Majorca (which my boyfriend insists I should have tried to win).
There were so many people there that forward movement was impossible and all progress had to be made sideways.
The shop itself is lovely. It is spacious (at least it was on Sunday when I went back) and beautifully laid out with plenty of room to scrutinise the merchandise. There are some wonderfully stylish little touches like this stunning clock hanging above the large changing room and these gorgeous lampshades which gave us a fabulous idea for the hall… Honestly, I think you should go and look for yourself.
The night was an unqualified success. The store was beautiful; the crowd was enthusiastic; the celebrities were interesting, friendly and approachable. All in all I have to say a huge congratulations to Pete and Barnaby and a big thank you to all the guys at Specialized UK for their hard work.
On a more sombre note, I wish this kind of enterprise wasn’t necessary, that as a woman I could walk into any bike shop, confident of a warm welcome and sufficient range of products to stand a good chance of finding what I want but, the way things are at the moment, it is necessary. So many bike shops are male domains, whether they intend to be or not. Less than a quarter of the gender-specific merchandise is going to be for women and often this is mixed amongst the men’s products, resulting in a needle-in-a-haystack scenario, which isn’t the most enjoyable way of shopping.
Attitude-wise, I don’t think I have as much trouble as some. I am a tom-boy at heart with a love of finding out how things work and how to fix them and I’m used to dealing with people who deal with bikes but I can easily see how a lot of women would easily be intimidated, occasionally by the men themselves (if for no other reason than these men are often more used to dealing with other men), often by the fact that they are all men, maybe by the oppressive, workshop-like atmosphere which can pervade the premises.
Just knowing that this shop is for women is a huge confidence boost before you even set out for the store; the open space, large changing room, uncluttered displays and genuinely friendly and open staff only serve to reinforce this.