No more soggy sandwiches: the station convenience retailing of the future.

No more soggy sandwiches: the station convenience retailing of the future.
6 July 2017, Alexandre Du Pasquier

No more soggy sandwiches: the station convenience retailing of the future.

The days of having to choose between a soggy day-old ham sandwich and a soggy day-old cheese sandwich for your train journey are long gone: convenience retailing in stations is becoming increasingly fresh, diverse and customisable. And, as shops incorporate new technology and begin to attract non-passengers, convenience retailing may end up shaping stations just as much as stations shape retailers.

Convenience stores are key to generating profit at transport hubs. In 2012, SBB realised that our stations (and their long opening hours – perfect for that forgotten dinner ingredient or midnight snack run) were also attracting customers from the surrounding area, a market that had previously been less relevant.

In the retail vanguard

SBB has always been a pioneer when it comes to convenience retailing. We introduced our first railway station vending machines in the 1930s, developed convenience stores in the 1990s, and are now introducing new technology such as self-checkouts to improve the customer experience further. But we’re not the only ones capitalising on the potential of convenience: big operators such as Coop are offering new formats like Coop to go, while restaurants and bakers such as Manor are also expanding into the convenience market. This is good news for customers, as it means more diversity – along with more lunch options.

While early convenience stores resembled mini supermarkets, with the same selection of products that you’d find in their parent shops, they now focus on providing a smaller range of fresh and ready-to-eat products. Store design is also improving: SBB recently carried out improvements at Spettacolo and Brezelkönig in Basel by widening entryways and uncluttering customer flows, and plans to send out teams to make similar modifications in other stations.

Convenience

 

Fast and fresh

The convenience stores of the future will also incorporate more technology to help increase customer throughput. On average, passengers spend between five and seven minutes at a station, so retailing needs to take place as quickly as possible. Self-checkouts can help with this, while also streamlining the payment process during peak periods: while it doesn’t make economic sense to hire more staff for a few peak hours each day, automatic checkouts ease the pressure when things get busy.

But what happens to human staff in this brave new world of automated retailing? Never fear: while convenience store employees will be spending less time on the tills in future, they’ll be kept busy preparing fresh food and refilling products to keep up with customer demand, which already requires five to six rounds of restocking each day. For all that computers have to offer, quality and diversity are the key trends shaping the future of convenience retailing – and there’s nothing more human than good food.

The stations of the future will feature takeaways and convenience stores that are less cluttered, more accessible, and quicker to use – and they’ll attract more visitors as a consequence. As their appeal broadens, drawing in local residents as well as passengers, stations will change from being a place to start your journey to a destination in themselves.

Self check-out

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Alexandre Du Pasquier
Alexandre Du Pasquier
Alexandre Du Pasquier has been Head of Center Management at SBB Real Estate since 2017, a role that also includes heading up the Retail & Food Service Competence Centre.

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