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Ford partners with Rockar to sell cars from Next store at Manchester Arndale Centre

Rockar and Ford on the high street: Next's store at the Arndale Centre in Manchester city centre

Ford will sell cars in the Next store at Manchester’s Arndale Shopping Centre after becoming the latest manufacturer partner of Rockar’s omni-channel car retailing platform.

AM reported on Rockar’s partnership with Next in early January but is now able to reveal that the blue oval will be the brand to feature in the innovative car retail space after Andy Barratt, Ford of Britain chairman and managing director, confirmed details of the scheme.

The project - set to be launched in July - could pave the way for the introduction of similar retail outlets to more of Next’s 500 UK-wide stores, Rockar founder Simon Dixon has said.

In an official statement issued to AM by Ford, the brand said that the partnership with Rockar and Next was destined to “to increase representation of the blue oval brand”.

The brand would make no further comment about the prospect of more high street stores.

Barratt said:  “We have the most extensive dealership network, which has received significant investment including new FordStores, Transit Centres and Mobile Service Vans.

“These premises will remain to serve the many customers wanting to make a special trip to a traditional dealer. 

“There is however also a growing appetite to browse for cars in other retail environments and online which we are meeting with these new 2018 ventures.”

Ford’s new-look five-car showroom in the newly-refurbished Next store in Manchester’s Arndale shopping centre will offer shoppers the opportunity to test drive vehicles and new cars can be handed over at the site. 

A new Ford team of 15 product experts and support staff are being recruited for Ford in Manchester Arndale, which is due to open in July.

Rockar said that it had supported Ford in the recruitment and training of the team who will not be paid commission for sales.

At the same time Ford will launch an online car sales pilot for customers to specify, finance and order a new car for delivery to participating dealers, Ford in Manchester Arndale or to a home address anywhere in the country.

Offering cars only, Ford said that its display at Manchester Arndale will be changed regularly, and will initially feature the new 2018 ranges of Fiesta, EcoSport and Mustang models. 

All complementary online offers will be supported by Ford Options, the company’s Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) scheme, and be supported by Ford’s usual warranty and roadside assistance terms.

Speaking to AM in January, Rockar boss Dixon (pictured) revealed that the Arndale-based collaboration would generate a far higher footfall for its new partner than its existing car store sites, with Hyundai at Kent’s Bluewater shopping centre and Westfield, in Stratford, and with Jaguar Land Rover at Westfield.

Rockar founder Simon DixonThose sites see an annual passing footfall of 89 million shoppers.

Dixon said: “Not only does our space within the Next store have a high visual impact from outside the store, with a full-length glass frontage, but everyone that enters the Arndale Centre through Next from the bus or train station will do so right through the middle of our retail space.

“While our area of the store will have the distinct look and branding of our new manufacturer partner there is no more to separate it from the rest of the Next store as there is dividing menswear from women’s wear.”

He added: “Looking at our own statistics for the stores we have at the moment in Bluewater and Westfield Stratford, we currently generate 180,000 to 250,000 visitors for our partner car manufacturers each year, but the Next store at the Arndale Centre is many multiples of that so we are positioning ourselves and our new car manufacturer partner in front of many, many more people.”

Dixon said he saw the Next collaboration as an opportunity to realise a plan to have 12 stores at top shopping centres across the UK, but added: “Next has 500 stores across the UK, so the opportunity for us is huge.”

Rockar managing director, Martin Sewell, will appear as a keynote speaker at AM's forthcoming digitech conference which is set to take place at the Doubletree by Hilton, Milton Keynes, on April 17.

In his presentation 'Lessons in digital retailing from Rockar' Sewell will share insights and lessons the business has learned in its first three years of trading. For more details, or to book tickets, visit https://amdigitech.am-online.com/

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