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Ideas above their station

Published:  17 July, 2014

New sensor technology at Britain’s biggest and busiest stations has revealed they are becoming retail and leisure destinations in their own right as tens of millions of people a year are visiting them to shop, eat and drink, in addition to those who travel by rail.

The new data coincides with Network Rail’s latest quarterly retail sales figures, showing a healthy 5.6 per cent growth in like-for-like sales from January to March 2014, well above reported high street growth of 0.5 per cent1 during the same period. On an annualised basis, Network Rail station retailers reported like-for-like sales growth of 6.1 per cent while high street sales reached just 0.75 per cent.

The trading figures were compiled from the sales results of retailers operating from over 500,000 sq ft of retail space across 16 of Britain’s biggest and busiest stations owned and operated by Network Rail, and benefiting from a combined annual footfall of over 1bn.

Top performing stations include King’s Cross (+23.3 per cent), followed by Cannon Street (+21.3 per cent) and Manchester Piccadilly (+8.4 per cent) when compared to the same period last year. Specialist food brands performed best in stations during this period (+22.5 per cent), followed closely by cards & stationery (+14.9 per cent) and pubs & bars (+12.6 per cent).

Hamish Kiernan, commercial director of retail at Network Rail, said: “These are great results for our retailers and we are delighted that our stations are continuing to give them an edge over the high street. We know that the growing appetite for rail travel and convenience of our locations are key drivers of this trend, and we will continue to capitalise on this by creating ‘must-visit’ retail destinations across our portfolio of stations. Income from retail is a vital funding stream for Network Rail and strong results will allow us to deliver even greater value for Britain.”

Stations are lucrative trading environments for all types of retailers and as new stats show, the facilities are attracting people who aren’t necessarily travelling at that time. Footfall data from recently installed sensor technology at 15 of the country’s biggest stations uncovers with much greater accuracy how many people enter stations to shop, eat and drink, work, or use connected transport services without taking the train.

London’s Liverpool Street station recorded 91m people entering the station over the last 40 weeks and this is expected to increase to 119m for the full year – twice the amount of rail ticket sales recorded over an annual period. Outside of London the picture remains the same, with 10m more people entering the station at Birmingham New Street, 5.6m more at Manchester Piccadilly and 6m more at Edinburgh Waverley.

The data enables Network Rail and its retailers to better understand the flow of people through the station and areas of busiest or least activity. It also helps them to safely manage people through the stations and can inform redevelopments, such as the Waterloo retail balcony which moved retail away from the cluttered concourse to free up space for both shoppers and commuters.

David Sturdy, managing director of PFM Footfall Intelligence, which supplied and now maintains the footfall system, said: “This project has been very challenging due to the exacting requirements for installation in a station environment but through close co-operation with the client, we developed a very efficient working partnership. I am glad to see, from the figures being quoted, that the project is delivering the return on investment that was originally envisaged by Network Rail.”