Supercheap Auto (SCA) last night rebuked questions about the potential impact of Amazon on its business, unveiling a new flagship in Penrith that will serve as a basis for changes across its nationwide network in coming years.
The store, called a “customer experience centre” by SCA, has been designed to bring the latest in retail theory to life, combining in-store experience with the convenience of online shopping and click-and-collect.
SCA managing director Chris Wilesmith signalled plans to use the flagship to test-and-learn before looking to roll-out key features, such as endless aisles and 24 hour click-and-collect, to its network of 320 stores.
“It’s so much more than just an auto store,” said Wilesmith. “Our customers deserve more and we are changing the way we engage with them.
The Penrith location, situated in one of the largest homemaker centres in the country, will go public on 1 July and comes equipped with a myriad of LED and interactive screens, serving as the basis for digitally-enabled product discovery and learning through a dedicated experience centre in the middle of the store.
The centre forms the heart of the offer and is the conceptual brainchild of veteran designer Gary McCartney, whom envisaged the part cinema/part workshop/part advice section as a focal point for increasing dwell times and community engagement.
A cinema-style area within the centre provides access to more than 700 product-education videos, while simultaneously allowing others to watch motorsports live via directional speakers and a hexagon-shaped ring of eight 84-inch LED screens.
Individual sections line the sides of the location and contain individualised digital engagement from interfaces that allow customers to match oil and paint types to their cars in-store, to endless aisles that print order tickets.
60-minute click-and-collect is on offer, which is being spruiked as an Australian-first and will be available at all hours through lockers built into the outside of the store. Customers will receive a unique text code to gain access to their goods whenever is convenient.
But click-and-collect and endless aisles haven’t crimped in-store product availability, with 1000 more lines available than average SCA stores, bolstered by a fulfilment centre attached to the location.
Other services include a full-time concierge, a pit-stop section that invites customers to share their own car development journey over coffee and brand-new offers like electric vehicle charging, nitrogen tyre inflation, windscreen chip repair and baby-seat fitting.
“Customer service and advice will be key in this store and to that end we have introduced the ‘Guru Concept’ which will see guru’s with specialist product knowledge available to customers throughout the store. There are also two Car Clinic advice bars which will allow customers to find the best solution to their automotive problems,” said Wilesmith.
It’s the biggest investment SCA has ever made in a single store and after Super Retail Group CEO Peter Birtles has been prompted to repeatedly address fears over the impact of Amazon’s entry on the group, which also includes Rebel sport, Rays and Super Amart.
Amazon was front-of-mind last night and repeatedly mentioned, but SCA remains confident that it can use its store portfolio to keep pace, particularly as a significant amount of customers opt for click-and-collect on online orders.
SCA’s general manager of retail operations, Pam Pugsley, believes that the future for the business is about competing on more than just price, providing customers with a unique experience and community driven platform that will keep them coming back and cement dwell times.
Rather than serving as a stencil for a new cookie-cutter format, SCA intends to take elements from its flagship that have proven popular and implement them as appropriate, having already nearly completed a round of refurbishments through its network in the last five-years.
Analysts have predicted that SRG’s earnings could fall between 19 and 32 per cent within 5 years of Amazon’s entry, as the giant grabs sales in auto, sporting goods and leisure categories.
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