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Rockar, Bluewater

Rockar have adopted a powerful new concept that is revolutionising the car sales market. You really wouldn’t expect to find a car showroom within a shopping centre. Yet that is precisely where this new brand has launched its flagship outlet. Rockar, in partnership with Hyundai, has wowed the public of Kent with its futuristic store located on the lower mall of South East England’s premier retail out of town destination, Bluewater. Not only does it look amazing - another fabulous, gleaming white box (we’ll come back to this in a minute) but it also introduces a radical way to buy a car.

The whole process is customer led and the showroom, with over 42 digital screens, allows you to purchase the car unaided. You may think this is ludicrous, but Rockar has done its research and discovered that 93% of all new car buyers conduct research online and only visit the dealership when they wish to purchase the car of their dreams. In addition, the average customer visits a dealer just 1.3 times before the sale. Add this to the fact that Bluewater has an average annual footfall of 27 million and the concept becomes a workable and profitable reality.

The brightness of the shop stands out from the mall. Its cleanliness and fluidity beckon you in. There are no barriers, no store front to battle with, you merely stroll in. Once inside, it’s like waking up in the middle of a dream, perhaps under the operating lights, but instead of having your hip replaced you end up selecting a new vehicle to buy. Unusual explanation granted, but this new interior is very space age and disorientating, I guess because it’s so unexpected and unusual for the motor trade. This new car showroom is definitely a winner; aimed at the younger, computer savvy market, it is refreshing and stimulating.

You enter through a charcoal grey tunnel that appears to frame the store and enhance the brilliant whiteness of the glossy interior. Two large screens on either side displaying footage of the new smart car (that drives itself), compel you forwards. There are only three cars instore and no tickets or hand written labels anywhere in sight, but it is enough to guide you. A sleek, white, metal display pod is positioned beside each car with the necessary details on a touch screen. You can find out more if you desire. A large three dimensional colour wall chart is positioned at the midway point displaying the various models in available colours and forms a striking feature. Tiny moulded cars spray painted in various shades help customers make that all important decision. A central touch screen table allows multiple users to browse the entire Hyundai range, select their vehicles and make purchases without speaking to anyone – if they choose. On the opposite side is the sales desk and assistants are on hand if you need help or advice. There is a serious lack of ‘slick’ sales assistants, which is a distinct advantage. According to Rockar’s research people feel intimidated by the car sales process. Staff are chosen from outside the automotive industry and do not work on commission, another interesting point of difference.

The ambience in this store is relaxed. Lighting is a mixture of sunken spots to add drama and suspended fluorescents to diffuse. To ensure that the store remains exciting and innovative every surface, even though predominantly white, is textured or grooved. A plethora of screens decorate their surfaces, wrapping around the entire 185 sq m space and playing bespoke content.

Designers, Dalziel and Pow worked closely with Rockar and Hyundai to create this seamless, in their words, “dynamic, digitally enhanced ‘auto boutique’”. A word I used previously to describe the new Leclerc supermarket in Bordeaux – perhaps this is a new retail trend... Well Rockar is certainly a great store and worthy of a visit.

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                               Rockar, Bluewater
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