Group Account Director Ben reflects on the current state of Airport retail.
Love it or hate it you have to admit that the Airport Retail space is important, growing and an evolving sector of retail which seemed to just explode through low-cost airlines and international business travel. Planes are now a secondary feather at airports, it’s the reason why we are there but it’s not how these important parts of our national infrastructure turn a profit.
I’m spending a lot of my time in airports at the moment as I make weekly short hops around Europe and beyond.
Typically, you are directed through the departure’s hall, and it feels like a shopping mall with planes rather than cars parked outside. Shortly after going through security, you run the gauntlet dodging the perfume wielding reps and dawdling bewildered holidaymakers, while being dazzled by the illumination, branding and the amazing offers that apparently are too good to miss. A serious sensory overload at 5 am on a Tuesday.
Dare you to show a passing interest in a bottle of your favourite spirit, sunglasses, or even a Toblerone and you are fair game for the polite but very persuasive sales assistant. I had the very experience this recently while window shopping for headphones!
Stansted has to be a perfect example of this next stage retail environment. With its winding route map looking more like a complex school biology textbook illustration it can easily overwhelm people with information. However, I find them interesting, as they are evolving far quicker than the high street or shopping malls (with a few notable exceptions).
So, what’s grabbed my attention? You have three stages to the modern airport departures lounge retail experience.
Stage One: The flexible Duty-free area with it’s all things to all people approach
Stage Two: The mini version of a higher-end shopping mall (I would describe this as a mini Westfield White City) with retailers such as Ted Baker, Dune next to Boots and Dixon’s. No matter what you want you can get it here from running shoes, iPads, to paracetamol they have it all.
Stage Three: The food and beverage area, I can see how Tom Hanks managed to survive comfortably in the film Terminal with his endless supply of Toblerone and designer handbags. The only downside I can see to living in this environment is sleep deprivation due to the 2000 lux lighting and the constant announcements. The choice you have for food is vast from Wetherspoons pub grub to Sushi, the only thing it’s missing is a Greggs.
My favourite retailer is the Dutch retail institution Hema to be found in Stansted and Schiphol. I love it because it stands out due to its eclectic range of quirky own brand products from Bluetooth headphones to toothpaste at a great price point. For me, it’s an oasis of retail heaven in a very bling retail environment.
The reality is I spend more time in departure lounges than aeroplanes, and you can see why they have become a cross section and reflection of the best high street retail with the attention to detail and regular updates and refits.
There are elements I hate and elements I love, proving it’s not going to be loved universally however there is something for most people just like the high street (do you love every retailer on the high street?).