Launchpad: the Greyhound bus brand comes to the UK

What is it?The iconic American bus brand is launching in the UK beginning with selected services between London and Portsmouth and London and Southampton.

How is it different?The coach industry has succeeded in recent years in destroying any value that was left in the category, with brands like Megabus and easyBus focusing relentlessly on price-cutting. In contrast, Greyhound are providing a more premium offer that feels more like an airline service, despite fares that start at £1 plus a 50 pence booking fee.

Who is it aimed at? Greyhound believe their core customers will be style conscious and technology savvy 16-24 year olds, including students and sports fans. Given that fares are a fraction of equivalent rail fares, other price conscious consumers are also likely to be interested.

What’s the point?With the rising price of rail travel the only viable alternative for travelers is one of the slow and uncomfortable coach services. Surely there is a gap in the market for a low cost premium bus service that takes its lead from the airline industry whilst undercutting rail prices? The Greyhound service will offer free Wifi, newspapers, power points, more leg-room and a frequent travellers programme. The services will also cut travel times by avoiding intermediate pick-up and drop-off points. This feels like a unique proposition and the buses themselves look impressive enough.Who thinks it’s a good idea?FirstGroup, the largest bus and rail operator in the UK, acquired the Greyhound brand two years ago. The firm clearly feels a gap in the market exists and believes the Greyhound brand is just the ticket to exploit it. However, its foray into the market is being carefully managed by trialling these two routes from 14 September before deciding whether to roll out nationally next year. Cleverly, FirstGroup has managed to miss the busy summer period, which would have provided a much better test!

What could possibly go wrong?The key challenge for Greyhound is the fact it’s entering a crowded market, which is not showing many signs of growth. If the service does go national then a strong reaction from National Express can be expected, which could test FirstGroup’s resolve and commitment to the brand’s roll-out.

However, FirstGroup appears to be investing in a significant launch advertising campaign, and latent awareness of the brand in the UK can only help. What’s more, if the quality of service lives up to the promise then Greyhound has the potential to grow the coach travel sector by stealing travellers from rail services. All in all, I reckon chances of success are good.

For more info, visit the Greyhound website.

Justin Wright is a founder of Mangrove Consulting, a specialist innovation consultancy advising companies on how to grow through innovation and entrepreneurship, and is a director of several small businesses. His life has not been the same since the launch of the 5 blade razor – he finds it hard to remember what life was like with only 4 blades…

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