I love the great outdoors and have been lucky enough to travel the world, take part in a lot of outdoor activities such as camping and cycling, so was excited that Edinburgh was going to get its own GO Outdoors store after seeing adverts for years for other stores on television. Our dear friend and fundraising superwoman Lynne McNicoll even opened the store (albeit it a couple of weeks before it actually opened!)
I headed down to Granton today to see all their goods under one roof. There’s no denying that the place is large and sells a wide range of goods, but it’s not a patch on Tisos in Edinburgh. On a positive note, the outdoors camping area is huge and has a wide selection of erected tents on display which make choosing a tent a delight. I was accompanied by a camping expert and a cyclist today and we decided to put the staff’s knowledge to the test. The assistant who helped us regarding a tent for a family of six, gave more than adequate advice and led us to a suitable choice and explained all the features to us in layman’s terms.
Returning to the store, we all explored at our own pace and returned to discuss our experiences with each other.
I had tried to enlist the help of one of the staff in the ladieswear section, but the three I approached were all playing with their new shiny lanyards discussing tonight’s X Factor – so much so that I had to say excuse me twice. The clothes section is sprawled out and it’s not neccessarily easy to see everything on offer.
All the big names are there, Northface, Berghaus etc, but also some lesser known brands which is where the bargain prices come in.
For a yearly payment of £4, you can get a discount card which allows you to pay the lowest price advertised on the ticket. The lesser-known brands were reasonably cheap, but the same prices as Trespass clothes, which I know to be of good quality.
The shoe and boot section is not clearly marked for the ladies but has a reasonable choice to choose from. The store has two ‘walking ramps’ on which you can test out your boots, but with no socks to borrow for that impulse buy, you need to remember to take your own. The ramps are smooth in surface, so not exactly replicating moutain paths. I wasn’t impressed with the knowledge the assistant had when enquiring about a pair of walking boots for extreme conditions – it was more a case of seeing if they fitted and that would do. Surely basic training shoud have covered this?
I spotted a treadmill, so assumed there would be a good selection of trainers to choose from, that you could then test out on the treadmill. I counted eight pairs of mens running shoes on display with the others being cross trainers and one pair of ladies trainers – so Run and Become don’t need to get too worried about losing business yet!
Next for the questioning was a suitable sleeping bag for freezing conditions in Africa (Mount Kilimanjaro) taking in account weight, bulk and temperatures. I would have been more impressed with the sales assistant if he held his hands up and said he didn’t know what to recommend rather than saying “this one should do”.
I also enquired about a rucksack for a round the world trip and when trying on a woman’s one and declaring it seemed too short, I was willing the assistant to say try a male version (longer back piece) but he suggested I use a holdall instead! Not exactly the advice I was looking for.
My cyclist friend was not impressed with the range of cycles, but even asking the basics about a mountain bike and its suspension was met with a blank face, although there are handy bike accessories for sale.
I know nothing about horse-riding so can’t comment on that section but there seemed to be a lot of equipment to choose from, which will be handy for riders living in Edinburgh. Similarly, a lot of fishing gear to choose from, but I don’t believe the advice would be as good as a specialist store of which there are several in Edinburgh.
There was a climbing section with lots of ropes and kit to choose from and even a climbing wall, but it was not in use when I was there. Other items for sale were: a good range of books and maps, compasses, travel goods, camping equipment and winter accessories.
Overall, the store sells a variety of outdoors equipement, in a huge spacious area, but the prices are not worth shouting about and if you were needing advice regarding equipment – my experiences today tell me you wouldn’t get it.
I have learned valuable information from staff at Tiso’s and Blacks over the years, who also let you cram stuff into a back pack to recreate the weight that will be on your back whilst travelling and have the knowledge regarding the right footwear for hiking.
There is a seated area within the store with dispensing machines for snacks and drinks and the whole store is on one level with access ramps making it suitable for wheelchairs and buggies.
Verdict? Large, spacious store with an average-priced range of goods for sale, but staff severely lacking in product knowledge.
We were in the store for around an hour, but the checkouts weren’t churning out the sales, and mutters of disappointment were discussed in the car park.