One Stop Car Shop, which this month opened its second retail outlet, in Chiswick, London, has scaled down its expansion plans to concentrate on growth through affinity agreements.
The Bournemouth-based independent car buying service originally planned to open 80 UK retail outlets within five years of launch in 1999. Now it plans to set up more call centres – it currently has one in Bournemouth – after signing an affinity deal in January with insurer Groupama.
Karl Grimsey, One Stop Car Shop operations director, reported brisk trading at the Chiswick outlet, but said: “The high street presence does work, but many people will not buy cars unseen. We need to ensure the Chiswick centre works before expanding further.
“The call centre is now the priority. Rather than the expense of opening 80 retail stores each selling 30 or 40 cars a month, we believe we can sell 500 cars a month through the deal with Groupama.”
One Stop sources replacement cars for Groupama policyholders whose cars have been written off. “It's a way of holding their hand through the car buying process. When people are spending £1,000, they have little help finding cars,” said Mr Grimsey.
“But we will still have a high street presence and plan to open a few more retail outlets in London before expanding out to other UK cities.”
He also expects to agree affinity deals with other companies, which will increase demand for more call centres. Though set up as a used car buying service, One Stop has started sourcing new cars for customers, though it only accounts for 5% of sales volume.
“Last year we also dabbled in imports, but it was a nightmare,” added Mr Grimsey. “Cars were constantly delayed, which gave a poor impression to our customers. We had no control so we walked away.”
One Stop predicts sales for the 12 months to the end of April will exceed £4m, with more than 500 vehicles sold.
The Chiswick outlet, together with expansion of the call centre operation, is expected to double sales volume.
Mr Grimsey said: “The money is there to open more call centres and retail outlets, but we need to set our stall out properly rather than expanding too quickly.”