These days it is rare indeed to walk into a brand new accessory shop, but the Mold branch of Checkpoint is just that.
“We’ve been working on the site for about a year, but the business has been open for about three months” explained Phil Griffin, one of the directors explaining that the site had previously been a builder’s merchants but was well worth rebuilding as it was both larger, had more parking and being next to a major superstore had greater footfall than the firm’s previous location in Mold, a few hundred metres north.
Checkpoint itself had existed since the early 1980s, but unlike a lot of retailers had diversified away from hard parts, and more to service and DIY products. Mold was the town where the first branch opened, but the firm opened a number of branches over the years, and currently also has sites around the region in Llay, Prenton, Queensferry and West Kirby.
As the building had previously been a type of warehouse you could have forgiven Checkpoint if it had decided to follow the big-box retail chains and brand everything with garish colours and in-your-face point of sale. However, this isn’t the case. The colours used are modern shades of grey and cream while the shelving and central gondolas are made from scaffold tubing and stripped-back boards which give the store an almost boutique feel. ‘Zoning’ around the shop floor is achieved by a steel plate with the name of the zone laser cut into it. It all looks very designer, although all of the fittings were constructed by a local fabricator.
The store carries most of the things you’d expect, including Canon car mats, Autoglym and Muc-Off cleaning products, Town and Country seat covers as well as a range of bulbs and wiper blades. What it doesn’t carry is any hard parts, nor does it claim to. “The days of people coming in for alternators and fitting themselves in their driveway are over,” states Griffin. “It just doesn’t happen anymore”.
While there is a debate to be had on that point, there is no doubt that Checkpoint is pursuing a successful strategy by stocking only core accessory shop ranges, stocking only well-known brands and keeping them distinct from each other. Although Mold is the town where the business was founded, there are now half a dozen branches dotted around Mid-Wales.
Despite being a modern kind of store, customer service is still something it is known for. On our visit we notice a stream of customers asking the sales team questions about its wares. All were dealt with in a polite and efficient way.
However, the USP of the retail shop is its range of electric motorbikes and scooters. The firm is the importer of the Horwin and Artisan brands. Never heard of them? Well, you will. These machines are imported from the Far East, but are built to the latest standards in an all-new factory. The firm has invested a lot in getting staff that know about bikes to sell and look after customers that buy them, although this paid off as there has been a great deal of interest from private riders, mostly commuters and from fleets. Indeed, at the time of our visit an order had just come in for 50 bikes from a food delivery app.
That leads us into the other side of the business, quite literally as behind the shop’s side wall is a brand-new service centre with multiple workshop bays. On our visit, there was a queue of cars waiting to be tested as well as several in for general service and repair and a couple of others waiting for tyres and alignment.
There are more plans afoot for further development as Checkpoint managed to acquire several parcels of land around the building at the same time as it was bought. The land was once part of a railway, but has been derelict since Doctor Beeching’s cuts sixty years ago. Now, there is a major supermarket where the station buildings once stood and the land to the side of the accessory shop gets a high amount of passing vehicle traffic as well as a decent amount of footfall, leading Griffin to consider if it might be worth building a drive-through coffee shop on the empty site. Now, if that isn’t diversification, we don’t know what is.