The nation’s largest and oldest railway system opened its first flagship store for railway souvenirs in Taipei yesterday, as part of its efforts to tap into the gift and souvenir market.
The store, called the “Dream Factory of the Taiwan Railway Administration (台鐵夢工廠),” is located at the southwest corner of Taipei Railway Station, right next to the Taiwan Railway Administration’s (TRA) bento box store.
Aside from the brick-and-mortar shop, the TRA also launched an online souvenir store yesterday.
The TRA used to have a souvenir shop at Taipei Railway Station operated by a contractor, which paid the TRA NT$60,000 in rent per month. However, with the flagship store, TRA has taken direct charge of operations, capitalizing on its 125-year history.
TRA catering service manager Lee Yung-sheng (李永生) said the TRA offers between 300 and 400 items for sale at both its brick-and-mortar and online stores.
The TRA decided to launch a flagship store because the time was ripe, he said.
“Ever since the Breeze Center took over the operation of Taipei Railway Station, it has helped bring more customers to the station,” Lee said. “The railway system is not the only option that passengers have now [for transportation]. To generate additional revenue, we have to switch our focus to ‘side businesses.’”
The TRA would have to determine if more direct sale stores could be opened in stations in Greater Taichung, Greater Kaohsiung or Hualien, he said.
A flagship store must generate at least NT$800,000 in sales revenue each month to sustain its operations, he said.
Architect Cheng Yu-song (鄭育松) said the store was designed using images related to the railway system.
“The store is modeled after a train cabin, and the checkout counter is designed like a ticket-checking stand,” Cheng said. “The exhibition area is designed like a train station, with the shelf in the middle looking like a platform. Visitors can walk around the shelf and check out the items on display.”
Cheng added that other elements were infused into the design, including train signals and train speed. The name “Taiwan Railway Administration” is highlighted at the storefront to promote the brand, he said.
Items on sale include model trains, railway personnel dolls, iron spikes used to anchor railway tracks and other paraphernalia.
For collectors who have fond memories of the train service in the 1960s and 1970s, the store offers models of glasses used to serve express train passengers.
Some railway enthusiasts showed up soon after the store opened at 10:30am.
One man said he wanted to buy an iron spike because its pronunciation in Chinese is similar to that for the phrase describing something that is destined to happen, and he wanted to be “destined to succeed,” he said.
Another man, surnamed Chen (陳), said he wanted to purchase a stainless steel bento box, with the image of a TRA train embossed on the lid. He said he had a dozen of them at home.
“I heard no complaint from my wife because it’s a collection of culture,” he said.