Airport shopping flying high

It is estimated that in 2014, some 45 million visitors spent S$2.5-billion at Seoul’s Incheon International Airport.

This staggering figure is just one example of airports’ pulling power in the 21st Century. No longer are they viewed as simple arrival and departure points for aircraft and jetliners; today, they are fully-functioning retail hubs able to offer consumers anything and everything from luxury clothing from the world’s leading brands to duty free alcohol.

Even smaller airports have begun to get in on the act, so to speak.

King Shaka International Airport in South Africa has undergone a massive facelift in the past five years to cater to travellers looking to take home “a piece of Africa, with terminals filled with arts and crafts and the sounds of the continent.

“Art is all over,Colin Naidoo, communications and brand manager for the airport, told IOL.

“These include Nguni cattle sculptures by renowned sculptor Andries Botha as well as images of Durban’s famous Sardine run. In addition, the airport has employed the services of buskers to keep visitors entertained.

On the retail side, King Shaka has introduced a concept known as Super Saturday, which involves visitors only paying R10 for their parking if they spend more than a certain amount at airport stores.

The move to airports as giant retail spaces has also had an impact on brands’ marketing strategies.

Iris Messina, a specialty leasing manager at a company which manages concessions programmes at eight airports in the United States, has identified the best products and concepts that are most likely to succeed in airports.

These include souvenirs, gifts and keepsakes; Replacements items like sunglasses, electronics and body healthcare items; items to help pass the time like books and games; unique products; and seasonal items.

Perhaps even more than is the case with traditional shopping malls, the airport retail hub not only has to be able to anticipate consumer attitudes but understand how travellers from different lands will have different requirements. Catering to everyone is obviously extremely difficult, but being able to identify the ideal “common groundwill make the airport in question highly successful.

Currently it is London’s Heathrow Airport that leads the pack in this respect. In 2015, Heathrow was voted the “Best Airport for Shoppingfor a sixth time, importantly, by travellers from 112 countries.

“Following an investment of more than £40-million and 18 months’ worth of work, January 2015 saw the reveal of Terminal 5’s latest luxury shopping re-development. Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Rolex, Fortnum & Mason and Bottega Veneta [have] now joined the line-up at Terminal 5, cementing the airport’s fashionable reputation among frequent flyers,airport management said.

“The terminal now has a collection of 22 fashion and luxury brands, each of which has been beautifully re-designed to echo the store’s flagship location.

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