Tube stations to be transformed into mini-shopping centres

london-undegroundAs high street shops start to face more pressure from online outfits and changing consumer habits, the decision to turn some tube stations into small shopping centres might not go down well with shopkeepers.

London Underground execs have worked out that they really don’t need huge ticket offices anymore, as commuters tend to use Oyster cards instead.

They will use the space currently used for ticket offices to transform tube stations into miniature shopping centers, with cafes and virtual supermarkets, according to the Evening Standard. The use of ticket halls has dropped 65 percent since the Oyster card was introduced, so they won’t be missed. With 24 million Londoners taking the tube every day, a retail push sounds like a good idea.

Transport for London will soon showcase its plans in a prototype next generation station. If all goes well, the commercialisation programme should start next year, pending planning consent. The first stage of the overhaul will focus on Embankment, Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus, Baker Street, Old Street, South Kensington, Vauxhall and Harrow-on-the-Hill.

Technology killed off the ticket hall and now it could revamp it beyond recognition. Using smartphones, commuters will be able to shop in virtual supermarkets by scanning barcodes from electronic screens and the products will be delivered to their homes within 48 hours. Similar schemes are already in place in Shanghai and Seoul. Transport for London plans to offer another service. It will set up collection points at stations, so commuters will not even have to wait 48 hours, as they will be able to pick up their shopping on the way home. Supermarket order stores are also expected to be introduced in some stations.

The hope is that revenue from retail operations will help TfL raise more cash to redevelop sites. TfL says it will not cut station staff from its payroll, either.

Baroness Jo Valentine, Chief Executive of London First argued that London Underground is sitting on a large property portfolio and it could do much more to maximise its commercial potential.

“Every pound raised can help support future investment and keep fares down for hard-pressed commuters. It could also make the experience of travelling on the tube more enjoyable,” she said.

So it looks like a win-win deal for everyone, except traditional shops on that already dwindling ‘great British high street’.