Travel retail design revolution

11th June 2014

Continuing our look at how travel retail design  is being revolutionised to present exciting, desirable offerings for visitors to the world’s railway stations, ferry terminals and airports we look at what some of Britain’s top retailers are doing to bring excitement and interest to the once maligned and uninspiring domain of travel retail. Gone are the cynical, over-priced, and overbearing store environments of old. Travel hubs which were once uninspiring and soulless are now the testing ground for exciting, innovative flagship stores for a surprising  range  of retailers…

WH Smiths at a railway station

A wider range of stores than ever before are beginning to realise the importance of engaging with shopping traveller – as the convenience of new technology enables larger goods to be bought in-store and delivered to customers homes or collected on their return journey –  opening up new avenues for retailers who could once only sell things that would fit into a passing shoppers hand luggage…

Travel hubs such as St Pancras in London and Manchester Airport  have discovered that a stimulating environment has a dramatic impact on sales and now they are responding to this and reaping the benefits. Travel retail is now a fresh and exciting sector to be working in. Recent figures have shown that most visitors to travel hubs will buy something – with some looking to use up spare change or making frivolous purchases as they are ‘in holiday mode’. There’s also the scramble for last minute gifts – all of which are making travel retail a primary focus for retailers such as cosmetics brand Lush – as Paul Wheatley, their global property director explains:

“Given the increase in passenger numbers that we’re seeing at stations and the increased dwell time due to the steady improvement in station facilities and travel is a primary focus for us.”

WHSmiths are also looking at innovative ways to present their goods at stations and airports – with excellent results. As their high street sales have dwindled, their sales growth is now driven by their stores in  railway stations and other travel hubs throughout the UK which proffer their goods in entirely new ways, which focus on convenience and ease of access. This continued success is now dependent on future growth within the travel retail domain but it looks like their future is assured for now.

Heathrow retail director Max Vialou-Clark explains the allure of travel retail to stores who haven’t previously been associated with the domain:

“Retailers can test new ideas on 82 different nationalities who are travelling through the airport at any one time. While travel retail may previously have been seen as an afterthought by retailers, it is quickly becoming central to their strategies.

“We see more and more retailers using Heathrow as a test market before making a move into international markets.”

As previously reported on this blog, Dixons is one such retailer using airports to try new ideas.  Their shops at Gatwick and Heathrow are now used to try out product innovations and store design ideas before rolling them out to other stores throughout the UK, showcasing technology in the new space, with interactive displays and displays of seasonal gadgets.


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