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Car People plans eight sites

The opening near Manchester this week of a £6m second outlet for The Car People signals the beginning of a steady expansion plan for the company, which could see its number of locations across the North increased to eight by the end of the decade.

The business, which boasts of its no-pressure approach to car retailing, already has a third site earmarked for next year. After that, says sales and operations director Jonathan Allbones, it will continue to grow by one location a year provided market conditions are right.

He seems right to be cautious. When its first outlet opened in Wakefield in 2000, managing director Martyn Carnell predicted it would have six locations by 2005.

The new site, at Ashton-Under- Lyne, spans six acres and has at least 500 new and used cars on display at any time. As well as an exterior forecourt and purpose-built showroom, it incorporates a cafe and children’s play facilities, valeting bays and its own fuel station.

Led by general manager David Woods, it will initially have 61 staff, which the company expects to increase to more than 100 in the next 12 months. Allbones says the site’s situation is of great importance in order to reach its target market. Like the first business, opened in Wakefield in 2000, the Manchester outlet is in a prime location, minutes from a motorway and within half-an-hour’s drive of more than a million potential customers – in this case the population of Stockport and East Manchester.

The sales target is a modest 3,000 units for its first year – Wakefield achieved 6,200 sales last year. “Our indications are that Manchester is going to be a very successful market for us,” says Allbones. “We’re bringing a fresh approach to car retailing which puts the customer first, thanks to key issues of value, wide choice and hassle-free customer service. Consumers expect the same retail experience when buying a car as anything else.”

Every site has a minimum display stock of 500 new and used cars up to four years or 45,000 miles, sourced via auctions, remarketing companies, short term hire or leasing firms and importers, and segmented into categories to facilitate comparison. Customers are encouraged to browse at their leisure, before consulting reception or sales staff for assistance.

Sales staff are paid a flat fee for every car sold, to ensure the customer’s needs come above their desire to sell a particular model.

“We get customers who come in three, four or even five times before they buy a car from us because they like to do their research before they make their decision. We have no problem with that,” says Allbones, adding that 48% of new business comes from referrals from existing customers, and 99% of purchasers have already returned or plan to re-purchase from The Car People.

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