Transport NSW cashes-in on hipster commuter merchandise

Opal Card IMG_5880
Pic: Beau Giles


It must be what every style-conscious Sydney commuter has been secretly craving for months: a brightly coloured, government issued accessory range of branded smartphone covers for your OPAL Card that lets you slip your ticket down the back of your mobile device.

Or how about a dedicated and embossed black “minimal unisex leather card wallet” that’s “tailored especially” for what would otherwise be just another plastic card for just $29.95 plus postage and handling?

After years of languishing on the sidelines of official design dagginess, the New South Wales government has transformed itself into a modern day metrosexual style merchant — and it’s quite a makeover.

Forget the imitation Lotus cum Waratah logo that’s meant to give graphic credibility to the machinery of state government. These days it’s the accessories, especially smart and digital ones, that count and your government is more than happy to clip the ticket and sell you an iPhone cover.
OPal phone cover
Merchandising from government agencies and transport providers used to consist of the ubiquitous conference pen or some stickers or promo posters from the makers of a new train, bus or bridge.

But these days selling a city’s brand through its transit experience is big dollars and a serious income stream, if executed well online.

Transport for London, from which Sydney has borrowed more than a few reformist ideas, has been selling Underground and Tube merchandising for decades after realising visitors wanted a souvenir of its iconic schematic or an officially issued ‘Mind The Gap t-shirt.

Now Sydney’s actively cashing in on the action with products that include Sydney Ferries and Red Rattler cufflinks, destination-based tea towels, children’s books, beach towels, umbrellas, postcards, aprons, mugs and calendars.

The state government has also taken a leaf out of Amazon’s book by making its official gift store an online first affair, collecting some digital kudos and saving on some bricks and mortar rent along the way (which is helpful if you’re selling off excess CBD real estate).

Quietly launched by the Department of Transport in March 2014, the government’s online merchandising shop has been steadily chalking-up sales and expanding its range to cash in on hot commuter demand.

According to Transport for Sydney, in just a year it’s sold more than 6000 units of stock across “Opal accessories and the broader Transport branded merchandise range.”

A Transport for NSW spokesperson told Government News, the online shop is operated and managed by DKM Global Pty Ltd Trading as DKM Blue, who in turn is licensed by Transport for NSW to design, manufacture and advertise merchandise.

The crafty state government is also branching out into bricks and mortar retailers and convenience stores by pushing its Opal branded phone accessories into “select CBD EzyMart stores” with plans afoot to expand the distribution network “to additional key retailers.”

But could other cities and government agencies also cash in on the act?

Canberra’s national institutions, like Parliament House, National Gallery and National Library and the Royal Australian Mint attract significant tourist patronage and all have well stocked gift shops that do a healthy  trade.

But Government News couldn’t find any merchandise for the National Capital’s ACTION bus service, even though it’s likely to be the only bus service in Australia that encourages its patrons bring along their pushbikes for the ride thanks to specially mounted racks on the front of its vehicles.

Similarly, we couldn’t find a single spy agency shop between ASIO, ASIS, ASD, AGO, DIO or ONA despite having souvenired a small collection of trophy coffee cups, beer glasses and table coasters from most of the above courtesy of various conferences.

ASIO’s conspicuous new $700 million office may not welcome sight-seeing tourists, but we reckon some t-shirts, fridge magnets and tea towels could go some way to recouping the cost of spontaneously bursting windows.

And besides, what’s not to like about an officially branded puzzle book from ASD (nee DSD) , the people who spend millions hacking, cracking and whacking Australia’s online adversaries?

We reckon it’d be a best seller. Sodoku. So five minutes ago.

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One thought on “Transport NSW cashes-in on hipster commuter merchandise

  1. I don’t understand why you are trying to give the intelligence agencies a soft and cuddly persona in your writing or why you are writing about them with apparent outsider affection and camaraderie when they strive to have the public persona of being closed to outside access as well as an air of skirting with danger, when you read the media publications about them that state they can break laws that would be illegal for anyone else to break as part of their operations as well as that they don’t afford any public access to them or even have a media section and in some media reports state that they will not even identify their names to partner organisations such as the Australian Federal Police when undertaking joint conferences.

    When writing about them in the manner that you do, it appears to go against the public image they have crafted or are attempting to establish for themselves.

    And I don’t understand it.

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