Last week (Nov. 23), TechCrunch reported on a potentially groundbreaking retail concept: Amazon's interest in turning ticket booths throughout the London Underground into delivery points for online orders.
The story's origin is a controversial one, as London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, recently announced that almost all ticket offices on the London Underground transport network would close by 2015, resulting in the loss of about 750 jobs.
While technology destroys one set of jobs, e-commerce may be creating others.
"There are 268 ticket offices on the network in total, and around 260 are set to close with only large stations, such as King’s Cross and Heathrow, due to retain a staffed facility in future," wrote TechCrunch's Natasha Lomas.
The big driver of these ticket office closures, of course, is the automation of Underground ticket redeption through the use of NFC Oyster cards (see photo above).
"But while technology destroys one set of jobs, e-commerce may be creating others," Lomas wrote. Amazon is reportedly in talks with Transport for London (Tfl) to use the closed ticket offices as "drop off” points for deliveries.
Subway ticket booths are ideal for allowing passengers to grab parcels on their daily commute.
This scenario opens a huge opportunity of prime real estate as hundreds of thousands of people a day pass by these locations. This makes the space ideal for something like this: where customers could grab parcels during their daily commute.
That said, the space may be more valuable for the transit system if rented to other sorts of establishments like coffee shops or new stands, even mobile phone stores? The major value of this for Amazon and the TfL in general is that the system presents a well distributed network of prime locations available all at once.
For the consumer, the benefits are of course huge. The model has been proven in the past by companies like Sears and its catalog pickup system. For people who work during the day, pickup is often the best option so they don't miss delivery. This method is also cheaper and easier for the delivery companies.
These pickup locations needn't be exclusive to Amazon.
Brick and mortar retailers should be concerned but could also be adapting to this model. I would foresee pickup locations in the future becoming more generic (i.e. these pickup locations would not necessarily need to be exclusive to Amazon). This is something courier companies could possibly get into. Instead of ordering home delivery you could simply order pickup if the location was on your daily commute and convenient. I know for myself, if the item is carryable, I would much prefer this option.