Retail Revolution

Check in. Baggage drop. Boarding passes at the ready. Don’t lose your passport. Security, shoes off, jacket off, queue … jacket on, shoes on, check your passport and boarding pass, grab your bags, find the gate. Is it any wonder we arrive in the departures lounge tired, stressed and in need of a refuel?

|© Unifee

Enter airport retail. Compensating ‘travel stress’ is a real trigger for impulse purchasing so when faced with a myriad of duty-free shops, big brand eateries, tech and fashion retailers, travellers fresh from the check-in gauntlet are easily converted to customers. Now a pre-vacation ritual for holidaymakers, departure lounge spending is big business.


With airlines under increasing commercial pressure, airports rely on non-aeronautical revenue streams more than ever. Airport retail prevails as the most profitable source of income for many international airports and represents a tangible market worthy of its own independent strategy for many global brands. Consequently, airports have transformed from a ‘people processing machine’ to a ‘people business’, having realised their biggest asset is their monopoly access to a market of millions of travellers. A captive audience who gather, stay for the ‘golden hour’, are in a self-indulging mood and have disposable income.


Shop ‘til you drop

Spending per head in airport shops or restaurants is considerably higher than on the high street or in shopping centres, with this figure increasing again as you move from regional to mainports across the EU. Top-class airport retail is vital in an airport’s bid to remain profitable and survive these turbulent economic climes. Passengers expect high quality retail experiences which must be treated core business by the airport to prevent underperformance. Bespoke experiences and timely responses to trends and customer demand can prove fruitful with the right tools in hand.


A further advantage to airport retail is the ability to predict customer demand. Unlike the high street, airport retailers can effectively forecast high footfall periods, influxes of international customers with specific interests – Japanese visitors coveting premium single malt, Russian travellers investing in luxury labels. In the world of big data, this kind of insight is a gold mine. Recognising purchasing triggers is logical too: Rituals Cosmetics, for example, offer a range of products specifically designed to relieve fatigue and stress of long-distance travel. Its shop at Schiphol Airport even contains a ‘Travel Spa’, where customers can relax with a mani or pedi.


Purchases made, airport dining continues to pull in customers at a healthy rate. While less lucrative than duty-free, research by DKMA Airport Research revealed that customers are more easily convinced to buy in F&B than any other category with 58% of travellers pre-planning airport dining before they arrive. Celebrity chefs – Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver et al – align themselves with airports trailblazing a comprehensive F&B offering, proof that there is logical value in dining units in the departure lounge. Diversity is key, promising travellers a host of choices which in turn increases customer satisfaction and drives spending.


Beyond the till point

The traveller’s journey does not start at the airport so it comes as no surprise that car parking is a highly profitable activity, with related income generated at regional or domestic airports outstripping any other source. A multitude of reasons influence this – limited public transport links, competitive pricing systems and pre-booking engagement. What remains clear is the pivotal role parking revenues can play in boosting an airport’s income.


The shopping centres of the future

The airport retail sector is seeing more commercial space, retail brands, duty-free palaces, celebrity-chef restaurants, pre-booked car parking solutions, and huge advertising media added day by day. At the same time, passengers, business people, airport workers, trade and service companies are all spending time and money at the airport. All of this points towards a bright and vibrant future for airport retail, and the sector is sure to continue evolving for a while to come.



For further insight into the biggest industry trends coming up in 2016, including those in the travel retail sector, please visit the webshop for the latest edition of Retail Space Europe.

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