Car Show, Revamped

By Mark Faithfull

Rockar (above) and SEAT (below)

Auto dealerships traditionally have had little to do with mainstream retail, but in the United Kingdom they are being brought into shopping centers, allowing manufacturers to connect with new audiences using small footprint outlets.

The original experiment involved a Mini pop-up store at Westfield Stratford City, complete with a Mini mounted halfway up the mall’s exterior. Westfield’s original mall in west London now hosts three showrooms: Tesla, Infiniti and, most recently, the DS Urban Store from Citroen.

Promoting the DS brand where potential customers regularly spend their leisure time, the stores feature an exhibition space for a flagship model, plus an area where customers can don a virtual reality headset and experience the personalization options available.

Yves Bonnefont, CEO of DS Automobiles, says of the initiative: “The DS Urban Store represents an important step in the development of the DS network. It is a place where you can buy your DS, immerse yourself in the DS universe and live the brand experience.”

Mall landlord intu signed up Barcelona, Spain-based auto maker SEAT’s first shopping center store this past fall, allowing SEAT to target intu Lakeside’s affluent customer base. Customers can browse the latest SEAT models, book test drives and even get their car serviced as they shop.

Also this past fall, Rockar launched its Jaguar Land Rover store at Westfield Stratford, designed by Dalziel & Pow. The store is inspired by its setting among fashion brands and windows features constantly changing displays and content, while Rockar “Angels”—a team of product experts recruited from the high-end retail and hospitality industries—help customers configure their new car, value their trade-in and arrange financing using in-store technology.

“Our research has revealed that customers are looking for ways to buy a car that are more aligned to how they shop for clothes, food and gadgets,” explains Simon Dixon, founder of Rockar.

The Rockar Jaguar Land Rover store follows Rockar’s Hyundai launch at Bluewater two years ago. More than 54 percent of its mall store buyers are women, and the average age of customers is just 39 years old, compared to an industry average of 50-plus. Around 60 percent of customers will leave the store and complete their purchase online later. A new breed of auto showrooming at its finest.


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