Are Shopping Destinations Helping to Drive the Future of Car Retail?

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Research suggests that female car buyers aren’t attracted to car dealerships, while younger drivers confess to finding car showrooms intimidating. As car brands start to experiment with alternatives to the traditional dealership, a new breed of car retail stores could soon be as much a fixture at your local shopping centre as John Lewis and Marks and Spencer. 

In the last few years, SEAT, Hyundai and Jaguar Land Rover have all launched car retail stores at major shopping centres, while Ford’s five-car store dealership shares retail space with the Next store at Manchester’s Arndale Centre.

As far as car retailers are concerned, the benefits of being in a retail environment are huge. Retail and leisure destinations attract a very different demographic to car dealerships, allowing car retailers to engage with potential new customers who may not have previously considered the brand. By securing promotional opportunities at areas of high footfall such as shopping centres, retail parks, supermarket and garden centre car parks, car retailers can speak directly to consumers while they are already in shopping mode.

The retail environment is much more informal than a car dealership and many shopping destinations also have longer trading hours, making car brands much more accessible for consumers.  

Our experience of securing promotional opportunities for car brands at shopping centres, retail parks and large multiple retailers confirms that the trend for pop-up showrooms at prime retail sites is set to grow even further over the next few years.

As landlords become increasingly willing to agree flexible terms in order to fill the gaps left by the changing retail landscape, retail destinations are becoming more accessible than ever to automotive brands. It’s easy to see why these mutually beneficial partnerships are proving so successful – with automotive brands offering diversity to shopping venues by adding to the broad mix of tenants and car retailers reaping the benefits of guaranteed footfall.  

By bringing new experiences that genuinely appeal to shoppers, instead of adopting what some may see as the hard sell approach, automotive brands are able to get closer to potential customers in a relaxed environment.

Shopping destinations can benefit too as interactive activities and pop-up showrooms help to enhance the visitor experience, increasing dwell time and boost overall performance.  

Porsche, for example, created a pop-up store at the Westgate shopping centre in Oxford to help launch its ‘Drive a Porsche’ initiative. While the store was not designed to sell cars direct to customers, it did have a selection of models on display to show shoppers how easily a Porsche could fit into their lifestyle. The store also offered a unique AR experience and a range of merchandise, as well as an opportunity to experience driving a Porsche for the weekend.

While there is still a place for the traditional automotive retail model of driving consumers into a car dealership, it’s encouraging to see the industry is moving with the times, exploring innovative ways to attract new customers. Car retailers who have already seen the value of marketing activities at retail parks or the local Morrisons car park are likely to take future engagement strategies a step further by securing an even stronger presence within the retail environment.     

As a business that works with both retail venues and car dealerships to facilitate marketing and promotional activities which are mutually beneficial, we predict that many more car brands will be popping up at our favourite shopping destinations in the future. So, if you’ve ever been shopping for a pair of shoes and gone home with a whole new outfit, you may well just end up buying the car to go with it as well next time.

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