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Airport retail trends – what to watch out for

Airport retail trends – what to watch out for

For decades, airport retail has been saddled with the legacy of the post-war boom in air travel. Airports were designed to process people quickly to and from planes, and beyond the basics, not much thought was given to the opportunities presented.

All that started to change in the 1990s, when a second boom brought about by budget carriers meant millions more passengers were not just channelling from car park to plane seat, but were spending more time milling around, awaiting flights and shopping. Inevitably, retailers were eager to get on board. Setting up shop where there’s a captive audience of customers with disposable income and time to spend it is simply too good a chance to miss.

Now, the industry has developed to the point where aviation travellers have high expectations of the retail and hospitality facilities at an airport. And it’s up to those retailers to satisfy those expectations or fall by the wayside.

Growth in luxury goods and experiences

One of the biggest surprises has been the availability of luxury goods at airport retail outlets. Fashion, jewellery, electronics and fragrances can all be bought at the airport shopping areas, and people will turn up with the intention of making a purchase. That could be anything from a new entertainment device for the flight to a gift for someone at their destination.

In 2021/22, luxury goods retail is going to be even more conspicuous at airports as travel slowly opens up again. And because luxury is as much about the experience as the products, the spaces need to be properly designed and maintained to stay on top of the trends. 

Multichannel and omnichannel retail

Linking the online with the physical space is also growing in demand at airport retailers. Consumers like the idea of making a purchase online, perhaps on their way to the airport, and being able to pick it up in store. That means the outlets have to be fully joined up to the organisation’s omnichannel ecommerce system, and have the staff, training and the facilities available to fulfil the purchases. 

Customer safety

The microscopic elephant in the room is, of course, Covid-19. While vaccine euphoria has led some to let their guard down, we are a long way from being out of the woods, and probably won’t be until 2022. With a transmissible virus that’s prone to mutation, the focus on containing outbreaks and slowing spread is paramount – and both are at odds with the concept of international travel and retail. Let’s not forget that the vast majority of the world is yet to be vaccinated.

This all means that the measures that are in place in high street retail will continue throughout 2021, and it’s likely that any of the measures will remain in place thereafter, or at least until the WHO declare the pandemic over. Masks, sanitiser stations and screens should be part of any retailer’s space, and it’s likely that airports will be among the last to have restrictions lifted.

Stay on top of things

Partnering with a professional retail merchandising specialist is your safest way to stay compliant and profitable. If your operation is struggling to keep up in this fast-moving environment, why not have a full audit and see how we can bring efficiency and impact to your airport retail spaces?