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Interview: Rockar founder Simon Dixon on first JLR shopping centre store

Car dealership Rockar – which has opened a number of digitally-led stores selling Hyundai cars – is to open a new store with Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), marking its first foray into selling premium cars.

The project will a see a new store, designed by Dalziel & Pow, open in Westfield Stratford City in October. It is thought to be the first time a premium car brand has opened a permanent store in a shopping centre.

The store has been preceded by a transactional website, scheduled to launch today, offering consumers the opportunity to arrange test drives, check options and order a car online.

Rockar founder Simon Dixon says the brand’s strategy has always been to have a competitive offer in each sector of the motoring market, using Rockar’s unique selling methods. These allow customers to complete their entire transaction online if they wish, or to visit stores to explore models, arrange test drives and get advice from ‘angels’ who are the antithesis of traditional car salesman.

“The digital platform is far more complicated than for Hyundai, in terms of the depth of the range and the options, and that took time to develop,” says Dixon. The sheer range of options available to buyers of a new Range Rover, for example, demands many more stages of choice. But the process could still be completed faster than a suitable store could be found, leased, designed and fitted.

Like the Hyundai stores, the new branch has been designed by Dalziel & Pow. “It’s a more premium environment, but there is nothing dramatically different in the structural layout,” says Dixon. “We will keep to our policy of making the store the purest possible representation of the brand. It won’t even have Rockar logos outside.”

“We have learnt an awful lot about digital display content, and the central Creation Zone has been enhanced after very positive results at Hyundai,” he adds. The feature allows shoppers to explore the options – in terms of vehicles and payment options – at their own pace.

The JLR store, formerly a Nike store, is larger than existing Hyundai stores. This allows Rockar to engage in new VM techniques which, while novel to the car industry, may be familiar to fashion retailers. A large box window to one side of the entrance will allow a ‘halo’ product to be displays, while additional back of house space will allow easier and more frequent swapping of display cars.

“We’ll be changing one of the cars on display every three or four days. With Hyundai that happens every two weeks as it is more complex to move the cars about. We have found that changing the displays has a very positive impact. Shopping centres have huge traffic, but also quite a high frequency of repeat visits.” The changing displays contrast with traditional car dealerships where displays may not change for three months.

JLR UK managing director Jeremy Hicks says, “It’s an exiting time for Jaguar Land Rover, we have a range of new models aimed at new customer groups and as such we are looking at how we can best serve our expanding customer base. Our retailers are investing £1bn in the UK network, and our partnership with Rockar represents some of the incremental new, innovative solutions that we are introducing to engage and serve our customers.”