Grand Slam stars Leigh Halfpenny and Jonathan Davies officially opened the new "Welsh Rugby Union Ticket Store" at the St David's Dewi Saint Shopping complex, Grand Arcade (next door to Mothercare) in Cardiff city centre this evening.
The pair met fans, signed autographs and posed for pictures alongside the 2012 RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam Trophy, as hordes of shoppers stopped off to see the new Welsh rugby themed outlet.
The store, which is adorned with images of Blues full-back Halfpenny, Wales captain Sam Warburton and wing George North, will stock a range of merchandise including jerseys, leisure items and trinkets (cushions, dragons etc ), but will primarily make international rugby tickets available directly available to fans.
The unprecedented move is part of a new WRU selling strategy which aims to increase the availability and purchasing convenience of tickets, ensuring fans have the easiest possible access to their Welsh international heroes.
Already tickets have been made available from customer services desks at participating Tesco stores throughout the country and now, in addition to normal online and telephone access, one of the busiest shopping centres in Wales will house a bespoke outlet.
All of the WRU's member clubs have access to tickets which they sell in their own communities and personal callers to the Union's shop, near the Millennium Stadium's Gate 4 on Westgate street, also have access to the tickets, but this is the first time sales have moved into the busiest shopping hub on the Cardiff high street.
The new WRU Ticket Store will be open seven days a week, normally between 9.30am and 6pm with late opening every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with tickets for Wales' Dove Men Series clashes with Argentina, Samoa and Australia on sale immediately - the series clash with New Zealand has already sold out and remaining tickets for the Wallabies game are selling fast.
"The footfall through the St David's 2 shopping complex is impressive and this new initiative should help in our bid to change the habits and perceptions of the buying public when it comes to international rugby tickets," said WRU head of sales and marketing Craig Maxwell.
"We are a business like any other, although all our profits go back into the game, we still have a product we want to sell.
"That product happens to be something that the Welsh public are already strong stakeholders in and there are certain traditions associated with buying tickets for games.
"Firstly there is a strong perception that tickets are hard to come by and secondly once fans become aware that we may have tickets left for some matches, they are not always sure where they can go to get them.
"The WRU's presence online is a growth area and internet sales are strong, but what we have been trying to do with Tesco and now with this new outlet at the heart of Cardiff city centre is appeal to fans who may have a more laid back approach.
"Some of those fans who may usually leave it to the last minute and miss out for one reason or another will now, hopefully, get more opportunities during their day to impulse buy.
"The outlet may help us to get a bigger slice of the Cardiff leisure market, we may also pick up new fans who haven't been to an Welsh rugby international before or be seen by tourists who are visiting the city and want to see a true slice of national culture by experiencing a big match-day.
"If the venture is a success there will be nothing stopping us from opening similar outlets in different cities around Wales.
"We know international rugby is a big enough draw to encourage people to travel, we know we have the infrastructure in Cardiff to maximise the pleasurable experience of coming to a game and we want to reach out to new people to share our game as far and wide as we can."
The 'WRU Ticket Store'at St David's 2, Cardiff city centre is currently scheduled to be open until the end of January and will soon also stock for other Millennium Stadium events.
WALES FIXTURES STILL ON SALE:
10 November 2012, 1430hrs, Millennium Stadium
WALES v ARGENTINA Adults £30 U16 £10
16 November 2012, 1930hrs, Millennium Stadium
WALES v SAMOA Adults £25 U16 £10
1 December 2012 1430 hrs, Millennium Stadium
WALES v AUSTRALIA From £60
Tickets online: wru.co.uk. Tel: 0844 2 777 888
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