Pop-up shops: a new way of car buying

  • Is the world of car buying changing?
  • Pop-up shops offer a new way of finding the right car
  • Some helpful advice on what to expect and things to consider

The days when the whole family would travel out to a dealership to spend the afternoon buying a new car seem to be a thing of the past.

Now you can be in your local town centre doing a spot of window-shopping for redecorating ideas or picking up an outfit up for Saturday night and buying a new car at the same time.

More and more manufacturers are launching pop-up shops or retail experiences, so here we take a closer look at why, and what the main benefits are for us car buyers.

Car buying is changing

Most manufacturers will agree that the way we buy cars is changing, with some revealing declining numbers of visits to showrooms. Firms need to find new ways to get their cars in front of buyers.

Although online car sales have grown in popularity, stats suggest we still like to see the car in the flesh before we make any kind of decision.

Hyundai CEO and President, Tony Whitehorn, believes car makers should be doing more to approach customers.

“I think that as an industry we’ve not quite got it right. We expect people to come to us. We are breaking into a new customer base with our pop-up shops and I think the industry needs to adjust its way of approaching customers. We don’t do enough," he said.

In December 2015, Hyundai opened its second retail shop in Westfield London, following on from the success of the firm's store at Bluewater in Kent that welcomed 170,000 customers last year.

Inside the store there are various models from the range and tablet computers with more information about the brand. Around 94 percent of those who brought a car at the Bluewater site were new to Hyundai, showing how effective the shops are at reaching new audiences.

So, is buying at a pop-up shop better?

One of the big plus points is that there are no bullish salesmen trying to strike a deal with you. In fact, Hyundai employs what they call ‘Angels' who are there to assist customers but are not on commission-based pay.

The flipside to this is that any special deals or money-off contributions you may have got by visiting the dealership will be unlikely to happen now.

It’s a more modern experience inside the shops we’ve visited and you don’t have to travel out of your way or disrupt your morning's shopping to go either.

Mercedes-Benz has been launching pop-up shops all over the UK for the past few years. The firm's latest shop, at the Trafford centre in Manchester, was open for over a month until October 11 and showcased the recently revised A-Class and all-new C-Class models. The in-store configurator enabled you to customise the exact car you want and its central location (next door to a Superdry store) meant it attracted many young buyers too.   

“Pop-up shops provide a fresh new way of discovering the brand,” said David George, Marketing Director at Mercedes-Benz UK, “Car buyers are visiting showrooms less often than they did in the past, and so we’re taking the brand to a location that suits them. It’s on the customer’s terms, but our stores are designed to be true retail shops, rather than simply an extension of our showrooms.”

Over the past two years the firm has welcomed more than 400,000 visitors to the pop-up stores, with research suggesting that 90 percent of these had never been to a Mercedes-Benz showroom previously.

With technology advancing at such a rate, getting your head around all of the available equipment can be mind-boggling – dedicated stores tend to have more information and useful interactive guides to help you get to grips with the new kit and how to use it.  

Test drives

An important part of buying a car is the test drive and not all pop-up shops offer this, so there may still be a need to visit a dealership to complete the sale.

At Hyundai’s new Rockar store in Westfield, you can pop in and take a number of cars for a drive around a controlled route on site. Despite the limitations the firm has actually found it to be more successful than many of its dealerships around the country.

Another plus is that you’ll be able to see how practical the car is for you in your day-to-day life as you’ll probably have bags, a pushchair and your children with you already.

Mercedes-Benz pop-up shops don’t currently offer a test drive facility, however the firm does sell a wide range of merchandise, and there are a number of interactive elements including driver simulators, touchscreen tables, and sometimes an F1 car too which will keep the kids entertained while you take a closer look at those all-important numbers.   

Top tips for buying at a pop-up shop

  • Relax and take your time – there’ll be lots of features and different experiences in store
  • Use your belongings to see how they fit in the car – also collapse the pushchair/pram and put it in the boot if you have one with you
  • The in-store staff are unlikely to haggle with you so check what offers are available at your local dealership and online before you commit to buy
  • Find out as much as you can about the different systems and kit in the car. There will be lots of guides around the store to help you understand – more so than at the dealership    

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