Travel retail – designing airport stores as global showrooms

19th May 2014

Following on from our previous series of posts on travel retail, today we take a look at how retail designers should be focussing on the arrivals area and how it presents itself to the world. Designing airport stores carries with it far more significance than a standard sales manifesto. Airports are the first point of contact for any visitor when they touch down at their destination. Airport stores represent a cultural statement for that country – or region, or a welcome home for a returning passenger.

Photo by Jordan Nix on Unsplash

Photo by Jordan Nix on Unsplash

The customer experience of the arrivals shopping area has often been overlooked during airport terminal planning, often seen more as an afterthought compared to the level of process analysis and development that goes into the check in or baggage claim areas. All too often, travellers alighting at the arrivals area feel like they are being herded out of a back door, into environments which have obviously been constrained by time and budget, with low threshold impact and distinctly unmemorable features.

Travel retail designers need to get working on enhancing the arrivals experience. The space needs to generate excitement, create anticipation, and make the passenger feel welcome. If the passenger is on their way in to the destination then it should make a statement about the airport and show them all of the things that it has to offer which might encourage them to arrive there early for their trip home in order to browse the interesting selection of stores and take advantage of the unique items on offer. As mentioned in our previous blog about airport food retailers, the design needs to be a departure from the faceless combination of brands that one can find anywhere to include some culturally unique artefacts – such as local art or regional street food that enable visitors to distinguish where they are and what is unique about this location, encouraging them to browse, linger and ultimately spend more money. Designers should consider the customer needs as central to the travel retail store design and development from the outset, in order to create the best customer experience.

The world of travel retail is developing fast, but consumers are changing even more rapidly – they have higher expectations and a growing need for excitement and stimulation. The airports and retailers which take risks, innovate and inspire others will achieve the most as many global brands cotton on to the value of travel retail it is a very exciting time to be involved in this rapidly developing design field.