I think we all know that shopping habits have changed over recent years: high streets are dying as out-of-town shopping malls blossom and consumers flock to huge retail areas offering everything from high end designer labels to cheap fashion, from cinemas to fast food, from electronic goods to handicrafts.
But one thing you couldn’t buy at a mall was… a car. That, at least in northern Europe, is changing.
Cyprus was a bit behind on the trend for malls, but now most of the major towns have one and it’s ironic that, just as the Nicosia Municipality is working to revitalise the traditional heart of Nicosia’s shopping area, Makarios Avenue, which has become pretty much a ghost town of closed commercial premises daubed with graffiti, SEAT in the UK has announced that it is setting up shop at one of Britain’s biggest shopping centres, in Lakeside in Essex, launching its first ‘store”, which opened on September 1st.
While we may not see this catch on in Cyprus (our malls just can’t boast the sort of number of shoppers seen in big European centres), the idea that potential car buyers can test cars on the premises and complete the deal as part of a family shopping trip is likely to prove popular.
The concept gives the Barcelona-based car maker further coverage in the highly competitive London and M25 area, as well as access to Intu Lakeside’s 26 million annual customers.
Richard Harrison, Director, SEAT UK, said: “Our new store is a world first for us, and I’m delighted to be working with Group 1 Automotive to deliver such an exciting venture.
“We are passionate about finding ways to make it even easier for people to discover and fall in love with our award-winning range of cars. With a great team of product experts on board, a stunning new store and experience centre, and the all-new SEAT Ateca also launching next week, I am sure the millions of shoppers visiting intu Lakeside are in for a real treat!”
Darren Guiver, Deputy Managing Director at Group 1 Automotive, added, “We’re really excited to be the first car retail store at intu Lakeside, and working closely with the SEAT team to deliver this exciting new concept.”
The new SEAT site boasts a 150m² store with three display cars, complete with an outdoor ‘Experience Centre’ housing an additional 16 SEAT models to be explored and test-driven. The store’s arrival has also led to the creation of 13 permanent, full-time local jobs.
Harrison concluded: “The inspiration for the Store design builds upon our dynamic new dealership corporate identity, which is already halfway through a plan that will refresh the look and feel of our entire dealer network across the UK.”
This has been further amplified with the theme of ‘spirited spaces and warm welcomes’, using natural materials to give the feeling of a relaxed space, combined with with Mediterranean-inspired colours. Topping off the Barcelona vibe, there’s even an olive tree taking pride of place in the centre of the store, with in-built Gaudi-style seating for weary shoppers. This, together with the latest interactive and connected technologies, creates ‘a relaxed space for the customer to discover SEAT’.
Customers can choose to do as much, or as little, of the buying process as they wish. They have the option of researching their perfect car through eight digital info ‘hubs’, where they can also configure and explore financing options, arrange test drives for that moment, or for a future point in time, and even get their trade-in car valued.
In another interesting break from the norm, test drives can be taken unaccompanied, ‘allowing customers the opportunity to really get under the skin of their potential new SEAT, possibly with friends and family on board too, in a relaxed way’.
The Store will have a number of models available for delivery within seven days from the time of order (subject to finance approval).
The SEAT Store has its own website, where customers can arrange a whole host of things. Starting with browsing real-time stock, they can also pre-book test drives, reserve a car online and even apply for finance and complete a personal quotation. Ensuring the process is as easy and transparent as possible, they can also receive a part-exchange valuation, by simply entering their car details (age/mileage/condition) and the price, says SEAT, will be honoured with a 30-day guarantee.
In keeping with the rest of intu Lakeside, SEAT’s latest venture will have long opening hours: 10am-10pm Monday – Friday, 9am-9pm on Saturdays, and 11am-5pm on Sundays.
Shortly after launch, SEAT Store customers will also be able to service their cars there too.