Tranzwatching in the province of Canterbury, Te Wai Pounamu, New Zealand
Christchurch's most up-market (indeed "old money") department store, Ballantynes founded back in the 1870s, has taken an innovative approach to the closure of its large flagship store in Cashel Mall Christchurch, following the ferocious February 2nd earthquake.
Ballantynes in the city is a large modern but low rise building, and is unlikely to have suffered significant direct damage, but it is in the heart of a mall are where several people were killed by falling masonry from older buildings in the devastating February 22 earthquake that hit central and eastern Christchurch particularly hard. In consequences it is part of the central business district, cordoned off for safety reasons. It is expected Ballantynes area which will be closed to October while damaged buildings and debris are removed.
Amongst other business survival strategies Ballantynes are offering a return coach trip to their branch in Timaru, 160 kilometres south across the Canterbury Plains. Marketed as "Girls Day Out"for $20 it offers a return coach trip and a complementary glass of wine or OJ on arrival, and high tea to follow later.
According to a NZ Herald report "En route shoppers are entertained with demonstrations of kitchen gadgets, talks about perfume and make up, and a menswear buyer hosts a session on "how to dress your man." Trips run on Thursdays and Sundays and since March over 1300 shoppers have done the trip, with as many as 5000 expected before the city store opens in October.
Comment; The popularity of this jaunt amongst a cross section of mainly women shoppers, but tilted towards the higher end of the market, suggests that coach and bus services do not need to be devalued - as Mayor Bob Parker did - describing these after his US "study" trip as "social" "(poor folks transport) parroting the prejudices and patterns of US systems and administrators. Quality bus and coach services properly funded and marketed can be as good as anything rail or airline can offer.
The "girls day out aspect" (having a group outing to shop in a new environment and not have to have to worry about driving on very busy highway) or small group trips to South Canterbury by active elderly, by walking groups or other groups, is one of the obvious sub-markets of running a commuter bus service that returns to South Canterbury at 9am and 10 am in the morning as previously proposed by NZ in Tranzit. A southbound day tripper pass would be just the ticket!