Why travel hubs are a good place to test new retail design ideas

12th June 2014

As mentioned in our previous post, the renaissance in travel retail has allowed retailers to test the market with new retail design ideas and technologies with a captive audience. For example Dixons recently featured a special product range for skiing holidays including action cameras, waterproof cameras and rugged cases for iPhones and iPads at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 which enticed a lot of shoppers into the store looking to buy equipment that wasn’t readily available elsewhere.

Photo by Daniel von Appen on Unsplash

Photo by Daniel von Appen on Unsplash

Airports are working with retailers to help make their profits soar. They provide them with passenger data  which lets the retailers know where the passengers have come from, where they are travelling to and how many to expect to be passing through at any one time.

The retail environment at Gatwick’s South terminal has improved dramatically over the last year with 22 new stores opened between July and December 2013, transforming the airport into an exciting and interesting place to shop. Over 85% of its 36 million shoppers buy something whilst passing through the airport, and 80% of those travellers fall into the ABC1 demographic and  they  expect passenger numbers to increase by a further 6% next year.

Head of retail at Gatwick, Spencer Sheen explains how they Have improved the Gatwick retail experience:

“When you start looking at the constituent parts that make up the airport experience, retail and food and beverage are really important.”

Divisional director for airports, travel and commercial spaces at consultancy Pragma UK, Alex Avery, explains the importance of a strong retail offer:

“Especially with downward pressure on money that can be made from airlines, landing fees and so on, retail offers the biggest potential.”

Saving money is no longer the prime motive for shopping in EU airports, following the abolition of duty-free sales, so innovation has become the top priority for both retailers and airports as they work as hard as they can to entice shoppers with increasingly  inventive offerings, as Avery explains:

“Hubs give more emphasis on programming and updating the offer – if it’s the same old stock, people aren’t going to be enticed, but if you get it right, it can lead to incredibly high sales densities.”

More retailers now use major transport hubs to provide what he describes as  the “flagship brand component” with lots of  floorspace and inspiring fit-outs and designs, meaning that airports or railway stations are now becoming brands in their own right rather than just functional transitory spaces.