Network Rail recently reported an increase in footfall at many of it’s UK travel hubs, which has in turn led to a dramatic increase in tailored travel retail solutions as stores adapt and develop to meet the specific needs of travelling shoppers. Network Rail have been exploring novel ways to engage shoppers at their 17 stations, without compromising on their commute. This has led to the installation of special features like the balconies at Waterloo and other London travel hubs, some of these locations handle more than 100 million passengers per year and several of the network’s regional stations experience more footfall than many large shopping centres. Hamish Kiernan, Network Rail’s retail operations and business development manager explains their retail strategy:
“Being in a 270 sq ft store in Waterloo station at rush hour isn’t the same as being in a 1,600 sq ft Spa store in Liverpool when you have all the time in the world. So the focus for the store teams is to be able to understand and adapt to that.”
“The retail element of a station is considered further in advance in the development timeline now than it ever was, enabling us to tailor the retail footprint to how the station is used – for example, taking passenger flows into consideration when plotting the location of units.
“More and more ‘non-travelling’ customers are visiting stations, and we see this change in behaviour as being directly correlated to the overall shopping experience providing a compelling draw.”
In addition to footfall, shoppers have become happier to spend more time at stations – arriving earlier to check out the shopping opportunities or restaurants on offer – which is more good news for travel retailers as of course, dwell time can be crucial to sales.
Network Rail’s stations have traditionally focused on ‘anchor brands’ such as Boots and M&S Simply Food that do well at pretty much every location. But in recent years they have expanded their offer to include other types of store, with some 48 different brands now trading across their 17 locations and Kiernan suggests that all of these “are providing customer choice and complementing each other and the overall mix in the right premium environments.”