As fashion brand Joules prepares to open its first ever travel shop in the newly revamped Waterloo train station, Retail Week takes a look at why travel retailing is becoming increasingly popular among UK retailers.
The captive market provided by airport and travel locations has proved a lucrative avenue for growth for retailers in recent years as they capitalise on travellers who are forced to dwell in stations and terminals as they wait for their platform number or departure gate to come up.
Retailers in Waterloo’s new 20,000 sq ft retail space will be hoping they can benefit from the footfall pasing through - particalurly over the Olympics - with store groups including Oliver Bonas, Links of London, Fat Face and Hotel Chocolat having all signed up.
The Waterloo launch follows the opening of the transformed Western Concourse at London’s King’s Cross, which launched in March offering retailers including TM Lewin and Paperchase. The addition of these retail names into the travel mix shows retailers are confident shoppers are after more than just a bag of crisps and a newspaper.
Books and stationery specialist WHSmith is one retailer that has recognised the power of travel locations years ago due to its magazines, snacks and books offering. Travel is the most robust division within its business against its high street proposition which is shrinking, as the retailer focuses on expanding its map of travel stores, even reaching out to hospitals and schools for new sites.
Toy retailer Hamleys has also outlined plans to open more stores across travel locations. It has sites within airports in order to offer shoppers a gift proposition as they set off or return from their holidays.
Electricals retailer Dixons is also a major airport retailer, offering digital cameras, mp3 players and phones – key accessories for holidaymakers. Earlier this year, Dixons revamped its Add airport format with a remodelled store at Gatwick airport.
But high fashion retailers have also realised the strong footfall that travel sites provide. Traditionally, airports have tended to offer a more upmarket offering against train stations but this is changing as stations are remodelled and refurbished to attract, in some cases, people who are not even travelling.
Verdict Maureen Hinton says: “It’s not just obviously travel products that are being sold but new, luxury retailers that are selling more than just gifts and accessories are setting up shop in travel sites.
“Travel areas have become another channel to access their consumers. They can rely on trapped high footfall in the areas.
“Motorway services are another area that has been in development for some time, with retailers such as phone accessory shops opening up [to take advantage of the footfall].”
However, even travel locations are not immune to the downturn - with passenger numbers falling as Brist choose to go on fewer holidays, sales are being hit.
WHSmith, for example, has seen like-for-likes fall 3% in its last update.
While some observers have questioned whether the fall represents a levelling off of WHSmith’s travel sales, others argue that when the economy recovers passenger numbers are expected to bounce back.