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Railway Retail in France & Southern Europe

In France and Southern Europe, increases in rail traffic linked to the arrival of high-speed rail services (TGV), have encouraged the development of an in-station retail offer and blurred the boundaries with the traditional shopping-centre format. We explore the factors driving growth in this unique retail environment.

The first retail outlets in railway stations were bookstalls introduced by WH Smith in England and Hachette in France, back in the 19th century.

The concept of ‘travel retail’ was further developed by duty-free shops in post-war airports when an Irish businessman decided to create stores selling travel essentials to passengers in transit between Europe and America.

With the introduction of international routes and the exponential increase in air traffic, these opportunistic shops have been transformed into organised stores that have become an essential calling point for passengers.

Having always been linked to changes in the tourism industry, retail in transit areas has evolved alongside changes in the transport infrastructure by adapting to new developments in mobility.

After airports, it was up to railway and underground stations, as well as motorway service stations, to build and establish their retail offer. 

In France, increases in rail traffic linked to the arrival of high-speed rail services (TGV), have encouraged the development of this in-station retail offer and blurred the boundaries with the traditional shopping-centre format.

Railway stations are traditionally situated in highly central locations and play a role in driving activity in city centres.

Acting as hubs for multi-modal transport, they represent a considerable challenge in terms of physical diversity and social cohesion for local authorities and are therefore performing a key role in major urban regeneration projects.

Finally, they constitute an essential driver of growth for retailers who benefit from a steady daily footfall which can be up to five times higher than in the best-performing shopping centres.

Turnover by retailers in railway stations now accounts for a third of travel retail sales (airports, railway stations, motorway and underground stations).

The market has grown year on year and sales growth is estimated to be close to 10% by 2020. Although there may be some disparities across the various European markets, the railway retail sector does offer considerable potential and will continue to for many years to come. From travelling to shopping, smart connections... 

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