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Used car retailer

##usedcar--right## The original concept for the Available Car Supermarket, an £11m 10-acre site in Castle Donington, was to attract new, nearly new and used car and van buyers from across the east Midlands by offering a no pressure, fixed low price retail philosophy.

During 2003 the customer offering was modified to attract a larger proportion of the buying public. More cars were stocked, including a better mix of brands and a wider age range, based on a pricing profile from £3,000 to £20,000. In early 2002 Available Car stocked around 650 vehicles; now the number exceeds 1,500. Buyers from first timers to company car drivers are regular customers.

Available Car's retail-led approach meant its business strategy had to be far removed from some sales-led competitors. Team members are appointed from customer service related backgrounds and intentionally not trained on closing deals. They are not paid on the number of individual sales they achieve but for meeting high standards of service and overall company profitability.

Customers are left to view the huge selection of vehicles at their own pace, as the company's research shows many prefer to view at their leisure. Every vehicle on display is left unlocked allowing customers to look around inside and out – underlining the lack of hard sell. Realistic part-exchange allowances are given instantly, at both the car supermarket site and its live website. This approach has paid dividends. In 2002 sales started on an average of 60–80 vehicles per week, more than twice the business plan's prediction for that particular stage of development. By 2003 sales figures had nearly doubled to more than 130 a week.

The increase in sales was mirrored in the turnover figures. Last year, turnover increased 81% on 2002, rising from £26m to £48m.

Having set out with the highly ambitious aim of breaking the mould of car retailing, the Available Car customer service focus has been greeted with such enthusiasm that in just 22 months of trading, more than half its sales are a result of customer referrals.

The company puts this success down to the fact that visitors know they will not face pushy salesmen. They also know that each price sticker is non-negotiable – Available Car keeps its prices low, and does not encourage haggling. It also prides itself on providing quality cars that are prepared to high standards. Available Car has a clear focus on training and development, and on average three days each month are dedicated to in-house training, which boosts morale and has led to internal promotions. The company has an excellent employee retention rate of more than 85%.


JUDGES' COMMENT:
Available Car impressed with its focus on new technologies, including a popular website with a virtual showroom. It has excellent stock turn and commitment to sourcing the right cars for the right buyers, all within an environment that shies away from hard sell.

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