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A new form of station retailing?

Transport for London have announced that next year they will shut down the ticket offices at Tube stations.  However while its partly a cost saving measure – as staffing costs are one of the most expensive parts of running a PT system – it also creates opportunities to raise revenue from the freed up space and TfL are already considering how they may do  that. The leading thought appears to be that the space will be use them for shopping spaces. That in itself isn’t particularly revolutionary or newsworthy as many places overseas combine retail with the PT systems but the part that is interesting is that it may not be a physical shop but an outlet for a virtual one. This from The Atlantic Cities.

Both Amazon and food and clothing chain Marks and Spencer’s have been exploring using them as pick-up points for online shopping. And supermarket chain Asda has already announced a pilot for something similar: a plan to use a handful of suburban station car parks in North London as rendezvous points for “click-and-collect” deliveries. Users would make their purchases online then pick them up at their convenience, either from staff at a window, or from electronic lockers for which they have been sent a code via email.  It’s easy to see the attraction of this model for retailers, who will get highly visible shop windows for online businesses and simultaneously reduce their delivery costs.

There are logistical hurdles to overcome – no one wants already congested rush hour stations clogged further by lines of people waiting to pick up their pre-bagged dinner. Still, the revenue benefits for TFL are obvious. Currently, the network makes £25 million annually from renting out shop spaces. Many stations have small kiosks, while central stations have other small outlets (such as key cutters and heel bars) and a few stations even open directly into shopping malls. Renting out old ticket offices in prime sites could double this amount, helping TFL towards its goal of being financially self-sustaining by the end of the decade.

We don’t have a heap of space tied up in ticket offices and are actually putting some in at major interchanges (like soon at Panmure and in the future at Otahuhu and Manukau) but this doesn’t mean that there’s no space at all stations. In particular stations with extensive Park n rides are potentially a huge opportunity to add different forms of retailing to the mix. All of this is no real substitute for developing proper walkable neighbourhoods but some suburbs could take decades to fix while this potentially provides a shorter term solution.

The thing that interests me about this idea of a shopping pick-up point - at least from a local context – is what it might do to make public transport a more attractive option for people by removing one more barrier to using PT. It could help boost patronage and provide additional income both of which are very positive things when there is so much focus on reducing subsidies.

Now I realise that many people already shop online for all sorts of things but that Amazon are exploring it as an option is surely an indication they see this as a potentially useful service. I’m guessing this could perhaps sit somewhere in between a traditional store and home deliveries. For example instead of having to have couriers run around each suburb making a heap of individual deliveries they could do just one and serve multiple customers at the same time. That might allow for more frequent delivery times or cheaper delivery options so for example you could order something online at midday and pick it up from your local station on your way home from work.

Of course it would be nice just to have some retail of any form at stations. Why is it AT haven’t put out or level allowed I’ve heard that private companies want to do it). Longer term, stations with extensive park n rides are prime candidates for some more permanent retail developments – not that this is a justification for building more park n rides.

So what do you think, is it an idea you think could be worthwhile? Do you think AT should be doing more to provide a form of retail service to customers which could also raise additional revenue to help pay for the system?

43 comments to A new form of station retailing?

  • I can’t help but look at the current logic behind shopping centres and think someone has already done the hard work for us. Take Botany for instance – lots of wide open space, plenty of car parking and shops meaning people actually want to go there – if that doesn’t have future transport hub/Park & Ride written all over it then I don’t know what does.

  • Fred

    I like the idea. Every time I order something online it gets delivered when I am out and it’s a pain to finally get it.

  • Martin

    I live close to one of those Asda pick up points. Not at all popular as I type although that may change. Boris scrapping station staff is very unpopular and I don’t think many people in London outside of zones 1 and 2 want their stations further clutted with commercial tat.

  • Mike

    Seems like it could be a good idea for the park and rides on the North Shore. Most of them seem to be surrounded by nothing but open space.

    While Im thinking about it, what are the chances of another station being built at the bottom of Tristram Ave? It seems like Forrest Hill and Wairau Park are both underserved by public transport, and Sunnynook & Smales Farm are both too far away to walk easily.

    • I think you’re right. Some more intensive mixed development plans in Wairau Valley might spur it on.

      • Bryce P

        Except there is no room to link it directly to the busway. Easier to have it as a ‘mini’ interchange and link it to the buses that travel along Wairau Rd to Smales. Does Wairau Rd have bus lanes? If not, why not?

        • Sailor Boy

          Well there are currently 2routes which combined run every 15 minutes at best.

          • Bryce P

            They might run every 5 minutes but what is the travel time in peak traffic? That’s also a consideration. Archers Rd – 14k vpd according to AT. I would imagine that holds buses up quite a bit.

          • Sailor Boy

            Just for clarity I work 100m off archers road and drive it all the time in a work vehicle. I have never ever seen congestion on archers road because those 14k are spread all day long rather than peaked trips.

            My now ex girlfriend catches the bus to uni down wairau road everyday. Traffic is backed up from the motorway on ramp as far as southern cross hospital but the bus can use the right lane to bypass all of this and tgen just merge across for stops.

            There is never congestion traveling along wairau road only turning off.

            Personally I think thrre is a good route from Albany centre through massey uni to Albany highway down wairau to smales and on to takapuna. The express to town on thos route is well patronized and the potential loading is spread along tge route with almost a dozen schools 2busway stations 2met centres an industrial area several retirement villages the hospital and 2 sports stadia along tge route.
            The only tging that holds it back are legibility; none of my exs mates even know the route exists, and frequency, hourly stopping by 9pm. Yet at don’t even have it as a route in tge rptp

          • Bryce P

            Legibility is a key component of PT. Also dependability. Key reasons why people like busways and rail lines. I still think there is room for bus lanes which will accentuate the PT corridor to the newbies.

    • Molly Woppy

      A year or so ago our one car underwent repairs that took nearly a week to complete so I had to rethink my transportation for food shopping. I was working in town at the time, catching the NEX, so I started popping down to Farro to pick up what I needed for dinner (not that expensive if you are picky about what you buy). It is a very short walk from the bus station which is good – but there is no proper pedestrian access. You have to walk across the grass from the path (muddy and slippery if it has been raining) and through a gap in the garden to get from the path to the shop carpark. I thought it was such a wasted opportunity – I can’t be the only one who found it a convenient place to shop when catching the NEX.

  • Don

    If there was pick up points at stations the goods cold be delivered by the trains serving the stations giving a timely delivery and reducing the courier traffic on the roads.

  • Rob Mayo.

    Small footprint retail (either direct owned or in commecial partnership) within and immediately adjacent to station facilities, is key to the success of rail operators in Japan. It is a model that is profitable even in countryside areas with similar patronage levels and network layout to Auckland.

    Through a retail plan for the entire Auckland rail and bus network, outlet size, type and deployment can be tailored / developed for each location based on current / minimum 5-year projected station patronage numbers and proximity to existing retail.

    AKL ticket offices and bus/rail customer service centres currently operate as separate entities. That is an unecessary separation of service and an inefficient use of space – space that is better utilised for location-specific retail.

    • Glen

      Can’t agree more with Rob. Rail operators in Japan have built their business model completely differently to the likes of the simple transport-oriented NZ, Australia etc. – build the train line, get people living near it by making it an attractive commuter route, then provide convenience in the form of supermarkets, station kiosks etc. to lock in consumer spending over the long term. Even without the long-term initiatives, Rob’s point about station kiosks can be applied to Auckland now. Foot traffic drives commercial opportunities (for convenience retail especially), which drives consumer take-up as people come to rely on the convenience provided (and spend money there even if not taking the train), which drives further commercial opportunities for other retailers… it’s a virtuous circle. It works not only for retail but also services like bike parks – when will someone take the opportunity to provide secure bike parks at a station AT hasn’t yet?

      When will AT and the many private businesses that could benefit get the virtuous circle moving?

      • Rob Mayo

        Absolutely Glen. Even at current foot traffic levels, targeted, location-specific small footprint retail within and adjacent to rail stations and bus interchanges in Auckland, will drive consumer take-up of the products and services offered at those locations even if consumers do not not catch the bus or train. Its the convenience of such retail coupled with the proximity to existing shopping and the new retail opportunities that arise out of this, which creates this perpetual circle of wealth. New Zealand is no different to Japan – the consumer behaviour is the same.

  • Neville

    NZ Post have a parcel machine called a ParcelPod at Wellington Railway Station
    http://www.nzpost.co.nz/products-services/online-shopping/parcelpod

    • It still blows my mind that the Auckland CBD parcelpod is way up on victoria street instead of britomart or the customs street post shop opposite it…

      • Steve D

        It blows my mind that Parcel-Pod is a subscription-only service, and with such a miserly array of locations. I don’t think they’re particularly keen for Parcel-Pod to actually succeed.

        I don’t know why they don’t just let you address your parcels straight to a specific post office or agent, rather than wait for the inevitable failed delivery, and then play lucky dip as to where your parcel will end up. Sometimes valuables will be dumped by the front door. Sometimes you have to drive out to a random warehouse. Sometimes it’ll be stored at the post office or agent at your local shops (where, 90% of the time, is where I’d want my parcels delivered). There’s no option to get something posted to a post office near your work, unless it’s getting couriered, in which case you have to get it delivered directly to your work, if you don’t have anyone home during the day.

        Figuring out all the low-scale drama of getting things delivered is basically the one and only job that NZ Post should be working on, since parcel delivery is the only part of their business that has any future.

  • RJ

    They should also have advertisements inside the trains like they do in Asia

    • Greg N

      Why?

      We already have way too many billboards and other advertisements around the city, I’d rather have the train be a place where there are no ads thanks very much.

      • Because it’s a good way to fund a very high quality passenger information system. I like the policy of Bangkok, they have visual ads on the screens but no sound except for official passenger announcements. It’s quite easy to look away if you’re not interested.

        • Greg N

          I would suggest that any advertising on the new trains conforms with the city-wide policy on advertising in public first.
          Then if its compatible it can be used as you say for a high quality PIDs. But no sound and must be maintained to high standards.

          And certainly not allowed until the council policy is in place.

          AT can’t currently control the bus advertising as they don’t own the buses,
          But they sure as heck can control the advertising on the trains and should do so.

        • Phil

          Feek …something I agree with Nick on. Must be a black hole collapsing somewhere.

        • Steve D

          There’s a compelling bottom-line logic to ads on trains, in that even a few more dollars can help, but it’s easy to go overboard. People – correctly – perceive anything depending on support from advertising as being unimportant at best, or cheap and nasty at worst. The same’s true of station retailing – it needs to be a bit of retail added to a train station, or a train station as the heart of a whole town centre – not a train station tacked onto a mall.

          Public transport doesn’t exist in isolation, it completes with driving, which is almost completely or completely unsupported by advertising (although you’re still subject to unrelated private billboards). You can add advertising on PT to the point that it interferes with the quality of the experience – audible, flashing, or moving ads, window-covering wraps, or just putting in so many ads that they dominate the space.

          When you get to that point, you’re sending a message – public transport doesn’t matter, it’s for the poor and luckless who can’t afford anything else. That’s a value we need to take into account as well as the couple of extra cents that we might be able to knock off ticket prices.

          • Greg N

            I agree lets make the system right, then make it cheaper.

            Not the other way round as Nick suggests with using ads to pay for “High Quality” PIDs. Sends the wrong message, as you say.
            Like for one that you don’t deserve decent passenger information systems, So we’ll do a bare minimum solution and you can pay with your eyeballs to have a better one.

            As for reducing ticket prices – won’t happen, all that will happen is the money from ads goes to some non-targeted transport slush fund for AT’s Staff party or something worse (like MOAR Roads).

            If, and only if, all advertising money is ring fenced, and is used to provide stuff that AT, the Council or the Government would *never* fund any other way (SkyPath being a good suggestion). Then I’d agree to it – provided its done after the entire High Quality system including PIDs is in place.

            But I’d suggest we pick the low hanging fruit of charging for Park and Ride parking first, add good quality “in station” retail (of the right sort – not just $2 shops).
            Got no problem with AT using trains to publicise Council events and other public service type announcements related to AT or other CCOs (within reason), thats a sensible use of the capability – like they do now in fact with posters.

            Once you’ve picked all the lower hanging fruit, then and only then, look at “Quality” ads on the trains (and AT run buses).

          • That’s a fine aspiration Greg, but the reality is passenger transit in Auckland has a small fixed budget and only a small quantum of political support.

            The best way to send a message that PT doesn’t matter is to have no PIDs at all, or the cheapest that could be teased out of the budget. You know, like we’ve done with every aspect of PT for the last several decades. Simply saying we should have the best of everything doesn’t make the funding appear, so funding streams like that are important.

            Anyway, I think that targeted advertising to PT users is a sign that PT is well used and it’s users are valued. Otherwise, why would you bother advertising to them? Go to Tokyo, Paris, London, New York, Berlin, wherever, all of them have advertising for PT users precisely because they are a large important market for advertisers.

          • Greg N

            Nick,
            Like I said, lets do the Park and Ride charging first and other low hanging fruit, to buy the PIDs – but don’t aim low to start with.
            If you want people to use PT, then you make it a quality experience from day 1.
            AT has no track record of doing this, but if they want PT to work, they have to change.

            And thats largely a cultural change in AT that is way more pressing than ads on trains in my opinion, because once that change is in place, everything else will flow as a consequence.

          • Sorry but I don’t agree that having top of the line PIDs instead of the most basic option is aiming low or not a quality experience.

          • Steve D

            TV ads are very intrusive inside a bus or train, far more than static billboards (like we’ve got inside buses, and like many cities have inside their metros). They draw the eye, even if you don’t really want to watch. Having the sound off is better than having it on, but it still dominates any space it’s installed in.

            It’s all very well making a difficult bargain if you actually get something worthwhile in response. The problem’s not selling out, it’s selling out so very, very cheaply. All you want in return for TV ads is… the very TVs that the ads will play on?

    • Greg N

      And no ads on the outside of the new EMUs either thanks – except in the form of public announcements, e.g. promoting PT as an alternative.

      • Don’t think they would anyway, not much value in advertising on the outside of trains as they are hardly seen on the outside, not like buses that spend all day in and around traffic and pedestrians.

        • Greg N

          Well I’ve seen ads on the outside of the current trains as they trundle between Newmarket and points south beside the motorway.
          Mostly as I recall something pink to do with breast cancer awareness?

          • Steve D

            They’ve got giant full-wrap ads for HOP on the side of many of the trains, too.

            I don’t think there’s much point in separate advertising promoting PT on the sides of trains and buses themselves. They’re an ad just by existing!

            It’s rather like the film Top Gun, whose producers offered to put a US Navy recruiting ad at the start of the video release, in exchange for all the assistance the Navy had given for filming. The Navy turned them down, mainly on the grounds that Top Gun was already effectively a two-hour-long recruiting video and putting the ad in would be “redundant” ;-)

          • Greg N

            So your view from inside is presumably like http://t.co/VfLMgwYYGk as posted by @ByTheMotorway today on Twitter from an “Ad wrapped bus”?

            Not very customer centric thinking thats for sure and reinforces the not so subtle message that as a PT user you simply don’t count.

  • Tamaki

    Wellington central has a supermarket and a pub very close to platforms, as well as other shops. The supermarket works surprisingly well and probably attracts train users who can buy food on the way home,
    If tacking a train station onto a mall gets the train station built and utilized then I am all for it. Train stations are a means to an end, not an end in themselves.

  • Sanctuary

    The critical mass is not there yet, but I can imagine a time when Kiosk based retailing infrastructure springs up around a dedicated cycle network. After all, it is a pain when you use a cycleway and there nowhere you can stop to grab a newspaper, coffee, loaf of bread or some milk. I read of this is San Francisco, a bike repair kiosk – http://hoklife.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Bike-Kiosk-Open-with-desk-with-sign-sm-360×500.jpg and I can imagine a future with little kiosks like this – http://www.archiexpo.com/prod/wall-ag/newspaper-kiosks-60904-765847.html but offering the basics of a diary as well dotted along dedicated cycle routes. Imagine being able to stop on the way to work on a dedicated cycleway and order a coffee and a croissant in a little layby kiosk before carrying on your journey, or just swooping in on your way home to grab a loaf of bread and two litres of milk.

  • Lindsey J Rea

    I was in Berlin 9 years go and noted that not only did the buses feed the rail rather than competing with it, but that many of the resultant transport hubs had associated retail outlets. I got off the train, did the shopping for fresh items for dinner, and then caught my bus. In the morning, I got off the bus, bought a paper and a pastry, and walked down to the train. The next station along had 2 small supermarkets, and an arcade of shops, so I could drop off laundry, buy flowers etc. I was generally an “off peak” traveller, but the retail was busy most of the time.

  • I see absolutely no reason why a public transport station can not be tacked on to a mall. We have just visited Santiago and have seen an excellent example of a mall integreated into its surroundings. Let me say that I hate malls because invariably the first step is to negotiate a crowded car parking space.

    Parque Arauco. Santiago on one side has what seems a major arterial. On that arterial is a bus stop right outside the mall. That arterial is crossed by a pedestrian overbridge that links to a surburb of high rise, but can I suggest, density done well. There are hotels and apartment high rise set in well landscaped surrounds. This linkage of mall to surroundings ensures that all the visitors from this direction, and they are considerable, arrive on foot. They enter into a huge restaurant area that is peaceful because of the lack of vehicles (similar to the Wynyard waterfront).

    On the other side many people arrive from a subway station. Again there is significant high rise where people presumably enjoy living near to shopping and entertainment facilities.
    Could such development have been what our city planners envisaged for Milford with three public transport options in and out of the town centre.

    And on the North Shore is Albany mall salvagable. Can it in some fashion be linked to the bus way in an efficient fashion. (I sometimes travel to the Stadium by bus and it seems to take as long to get to Albany bus station as it then takes to get from there across the town centre -magical planning!)

    As a country we can learn so much from others about public transport systems. And as someone has mentioned other NZ cities offer inspiration. The New World Metro at Wellington Railway Station is a very successful example of integrating this type of activity into a transport station.

    • Steve D

      When I say “tacked on to a mall”, I mean stations where you have to go through the mall itself to get from the station to the street, even if you don’t actually want to go to the mall. Rather like exiting through the gift shop at tourist traps. It doesn’t mean just having the station and the mall in the same building, or even a station that serves only a single mall (like Sylvia Park).

      Cars do get their own mild form of this, when towns lobby against bypasses so that they can get more custom from passing cars. You’re being forced to give up your time because of someone else’s hope that you’ll be tempted into buying something you don’t actually want.

      In either form, it’s degrading and it makes it clear, whether as a driver or a PT passenger, that the point of the enterprise is enriching someone else at your involuntary expense.

  • Rob Mayo

    There are many examples worldwide of successful retail in and around rail and bus stations – in cities of similar size and demographic to Auckland. Current bus and rail service patronage levels in Auckland are in fact sufficient to implement small footprint TOR (Transport Oriented Retail). Small footprint location-specific TOR builds the demand for either more small TOR or a larger one that is a mix of retail and community services. Detailed research and planning is crucial – content must be tailored to location. I favour starting with the deployment of micro convenience stores, mini bakeries, dry cleaning agencies and quick setup/teardown retail such as pop-up bookstore-coffee stands, soup kitchens and noodle bars, as they are a fit with Auckland’s broadening demographic and ethnic mix.

  • nonsense

    It’s all B.S. That’s what drive troughs are for. We want drive through supermarket, ffs. With today’s mobile technology we should be able to order our shopping with our phones before leaving job and then thanks to GPS countdown should know when we are approaching so they could just hand us the bags. No more queues, tellers, parking or even shelves. Just a drive through ffs.

    • Steve D

      You can even cut out the step of driving there and have them hand you the bags… right outside your own front door. Which they’ve driven the groceries to. In their own truck.

      In fact, you can do this right now, if you want. It’s already here. We’re already in the future.

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