Tuesday 29th March 2022
It’s not often a bus company opens a brand new travel shop these days. Many bus companies have been only too pleased to save costs and close down any ‘High Street’ vestiges they once had which provided helpful face to face contact with the travelling public.
Arriva and Stagecoach are the two prime examples of bus companies no longer wanting to have such links with their customers preferring the anonymity of a faceless centralised online contact centre and social media presence which regularly demonstrates how out of touch it is with local issues.
So it was a welcome change when I was in Dundee a few weeks ago to also check out Xplore Dundee’s brand new city centre travel shop on the recommendation of owner McGills’ Chief Executive Ralph Roberts.
It’s certainly a smart and spacious shop unit and on the day I visited was rather sparsely furnished with both furniture and travel information.
There were supplies of a promotional leaflet about the new buses on route 28 and that was about it.
But Ralph was telling me he’s keen for the company to restart providing printed timetables now the Covid hiatus is abating so I’m sure there’ll soon be lots of exciting racking and promotional leaflets to extol the virtues of taking the bus.
Ralph is one of the leading lights in the bus industry and McGills are certainly beginning to make their mark on Xplore Dundee with regime change following the takeover from National Express – which interestingly if it was sold in preparation for the Stagecoach ‘merger’ takeover – is no longer relevant – so quite an astute move by McGills there.
Meanwhile in Edinburgh I was delighted to see Lothian Buses still have their smart travel hub complete with coffee shop going at the western end of the city where Princes Street turns into Shandwick Place.
This is an excellent example of how to make a travel shop look inviting and enticing.
OK; it didn’t have any timetable leaflets available this time due to Covid, but it was offering a citywide bus map. Even though it is rather difficult to follow.
Linking it to a coffee shop is also a brilliant idea but I’m not sure how the economics of that works out. Judging by the number of coffee shops now on our ‘High Streets’ and the astronomical price of a cuppa – it makes me wonder whether there’s more profit in a coffee than a bus fare.
Well done to both Xplore Dundee and Lothian for investing in travel shops – it can’t be easy these days with the nature of transactions changing to contactless and capping – which will ultimately make such retail facilities redundant.
But you just can’t beat a physical presence on the ‘High Street’ to reassure existing passengers and encourage new ones especially if, as I hope, those timetables and maps become available in print again soon.
Maybe the answer is cheaper to maintain and run kiosks as Harrogate have in the bus station. At least this maintains a presence on the ‘High Street’ which is so important for a local ‘retail’ business like a bus company.
It’s all about getting new passengers on board. they’re not just going to turn up. They need selling to too.
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Next blog, Thursday 31st March: Clear Bluewater.