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Retail on the move


Tapping into a growing trend for experiential shopping in a compact environment, BNP Paribas recently coined the term ‘transumers’, for shoppers passing through major transport hubs, who increasingly expect the full retail and dining experience before catching a train or flight. Transumers are a captive audience for retailers and catering operators, with over 400 million people passing through the world’s five busiest airports alone. BNP Paribas believe that in the next ten years, the global travel retail sector should double its revenue to reach $100 billion; and the UK Network Rail’s figures support this trajectory, revealing that sales growth at retail outlets in their stations was more than 17 times greater than the British Retail Consortium results for the same period (July – September 2016).

Why are these new retail and catering hubs proving so successful? The answer lies in the need for a tailored shopping experience that is convenient and provides immediate gratification, without having to compromise on brands or customer service. The nature of terminals and stations means that there is a guaranteed high number of travellers passing through the space daily. For those short on time, stations are directly connected to the routine of their commute, creating a significant convenience value. Smaller showcase format stores in these spaces also provide an opportunity for brands to deliver a seamless omnichannel retail platform, being a perfect location for click & collect as transumers make their way home from work.

In response, thinking around transport hub design has evolved and innovated to a new level of sophistication. Increasingly they are becoming retail destinations in their own right. Our latest acquisition at Grand Central in Birmingham, for example, was comprehensively redeveloped in 2015 to offer commuters, travellers and shoppers a 21st century retail and dining experience. This includes a 250,000 sq. ft. John Lewis store, Carluccio’s, Joules, Cath Kidston, Tortilla and Pandora. By tapping into the demand for quality retail on the move and combining it with unique architecture, Grand Central has instantly become part of the prime retail landscape of Birmingham.

In London, widely contrasting approaches have delivered customer centric retail success stories, with the likes of Old Street underground station becoming a creative and dynamic pop-up space, designed with the trendsetting inhabitants and workers of Shoreditch in mind. Meanwhile St Pancras station has quickly become renowned for its range of internationally recognised brands, including Jo Malone, Whistles, Oliver Bonas as well as both Harrods and John Lewis. The latter two stores are compact offerings of their traditional department stores, in which the range of products are carefully adapted to remain closely aligned with shopper demand.

As city workers increasingly opt to move to the suburbs and therefore spend a greater proportion of their day commuting, investing in a thoughtfully curated transport hub format can pay rich dividends for retailers seeking to physically connect with their online audiences. And with revenues set to rocket in line with BNP Paribas’ forecasts, we anticipate that major brands will increasingly see this format as crucial to their overall retail offering.