Pop-up stores – do they tell us anything about the trade?

  22 July 2018

Pop-up auto retail outlet

This month alone we’ve seen Ford, RRG Mazda and Mercedes paying for floor space in big retail centres to put their cars in front of shoppers walking between Next and Nandos, and many others (eg MG and Dacia) have done similar.

You can dismiss it, as many do, as saying it’s nothing new and that’s true. Maybe it is just repackaging a product in a different way but is there a stage where you stop and think `hold on, is something happening here?’.  Something is and it’s manufacturers responding to one of the things consumers put most value on – convenience.

For the car retailer this has profound implications and the most obvious but expensive one is where their showroom is sited.

Why trek to a dealer where there is nothing but, well, cars when it is so much easier and time-efficient to combine visiting the dealership/workshop with shopping or eating or watching a film at the nearby retail complex.

It is surely no accident that JLR/BMW/MINI dealers, Williams Motor Group, is investing some £40 million on new premises in the fast evolving TraffordCity, next to the Trafford Centre which is a shopping/leisure destination spot. They are not the only ones piggybacking the magnet of a huge retail development.

In the case of Mercedes, it’s latest pop-up is at a single venue which has 39% of Cardiff’s entire retail floorspace…

RRG Mazda arranged virtual reality tests of its cars (surely another area ripe for online growth and exploitation) but it must be telling that they were done at a shopping centre. What does that say about the relative merits of a showroom versus a footfall-heavy location?

Without thinking very hard I can count probably ten franchised dealerships within a 20 mile radius of where I live which are either (a) old and land-locked in a rough edge of town and a pain to get to or (b) stand-alone operations in the middle of nowhere. Hardly convenient.

All I’m saying is that convenience is becoming a bigger factor in how we shop and spend.

How about this for convenience? The other day Hyundai announced it’s working with Amazon on a virtual showroom. Hyundai UK tells me it is a US-only operation for now but hey, when did Amazon ever think small?

John Swift


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