Viewpoint – Travel retail going places

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Retail Insider and K3 Retail bring you a monthly column taking a look at some of the most pertinent and interesting topics of the day in the big wide world of retail.

Travel retail going places

It does not seem too long ago that stations and airports provided among the worst retail experiences for shoppers – taking advantage of the captive nature of their audience. It was lazy retail.

Since those bad old days these travel hubs have metamorphosed into arguably the jewels in the crown of retail environments. Many merchants now operate their most profitable stores in these locations.


John Lewis St. Pancras ‘click & commute’ store

And it is not because the poor traveler (still) has no other choice but to buy from them, it is more about the fact the merchants have created perfectly tailored offerings for the travelling customer. They have worked on what traveler’s need and have mastered the logistics of delivering to travel hubs.

Take St. Pancras International station, it is now home to the only (miniature) outpost of Fortnum & Mason that has its flagship on London’s Piccadilly, and John Lewis recently opened a tiny unit that functions largely as a collection point for click & collect online orders – dubbed a ‘click & commute’ store.

WH Smith has also worked hard to tailor its travel units to the on-the-move customer base and they are now the major driver of growth at the company. While its high street sales dipped, the airport and rail station sites’ revenues rose 2% in the first 10 weeks of its new financial year.

As more people take to rail travel – domestic and Continental – and investment is being pumped into stations around the UK the infrastructure is ripe for retailers to thrive. Proof of exactly how well they are appealing to travelling customers and enticing greater spend are the recent figures from Network Rail.

They showed like-for-like sales across its 18 stations climbing 6.2% for the July to September period. Any retailer would be pleased with those numbers but even more impressive is Waterloo station that managed an increase of 18.7% and Liverpool Lime Street with 14.1%.

These are mighty fine figures and as more retailers start to experiment like John Lewis with its click & commute type store and other digital initiatives such as endless aisle kiosks then there is a lot more mileage left in retailing from the UK’s travel hubs.

 Glynn Davis, editor, Retail Insider

K3 Retail deliver multi-channel solutions that enable retailers to create joined up shopping experiences for their customers whether they choose to buy on-line, direct, in-store or via mobile. It has over 20 years’ experience delivering award winning solutions, to more than 175 internationally recognised retail brands.