US MARKETS are often seen as the place British businesses go to die, which makes Stagecoach’s transatlantic success something of a surprise.
The firm operates around 2,600 buses and coaches in the US and Canada, as well as offering commuter and school bus services. And while Stagecoach is already a key player in the UK, its chief executive Martin Griffiths sees “significant potential to expand” in North America.
US markets have claimed several retail victims – most recently Tesco, which sold its ailing Fresh & Easy stores to YFE Holdings, following fellow supermarkets Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer out of the market.
Despite two years of research, Tesco didn’t appreciate the cultural differences it would face. Its Fresh & Easy outlets only offered self-service checkouts, whereas US customers are used to cashiers bagging their shopping for them. Similarly, pack sizes were too small for US audiences - more comfortable shopping in bulk.
But Stagecoach shows that UK businesses can appeal to our colonial cousins.
As the company plans to expand its Megabus line and develop premium products, it must beware the hubris that has afflicted other UK firms. HMV, Dixons and Laura Ashley all suffered from over extending their US efforts at the wrong time. Hopefully a buoyant US economy will save Stagecoach from the same fate.