Professional Jeweler Archive: Leavinš on a Jet Plane?

April 2001


Leavin' on a Jet Plane?

When considering a new location, think about an airport outpost

Airport retailing jumped in the 1990s with the construction of mall-like environments and the addition of upscale retailers and fine restaurants. A survey of 23 major U.S. airports reported combined gross retail revenue of $1.98 billion in 1999.

Meanwhile, 25% of air passengers are delayed, according to the Aviation Consumer Action Project. This comprises 670 million people – and the 20 busiest airports have 55% of all air traffic – so what remains is a lot of people with a lot of time to shop in airports.

While they may be one of retailing’s hottest venues, successful airport shops must project a convenient, fast-service image. In other words, don’t make your shop look so hard to get in and out of that travelers worry about missing their planes, reports Visual Merchandising & Store Design magazine. Understand their distracted mindset. Oh, and make it upscale or unique. (Both is better.)

What Travelers Want

Remember, though, travelers don’t want to go too deeply into a store. That’s why most airport shops are shallow – 30-40 feet deep vs. 60+ feet in an average mall store.

Aisles must be wider so shoppers can carry their luggage, and in-store flight monitors are a great tool to reassure customers they’re OK timewise. “If shoppers see their flight has been delayed for five minutes, they may buy another $10 of merchandise,” says Martin Roberts, president of GRID/3 International, a New York design company.

Lines are taboo too. GRID/3 discovered when reviewing videotapes that travelers are unlikely to enter an airport store if they see a backup at the cash register. Some retailers have responded by shielding the checkout from exterior view.

Experts say a successful airport retail mix includes internationally known brands and stores with a local or regional flavor. Travelers look for something they can’t get at home.

Regional flavors are important as a store design element also. “We look at the surrounding community for something to express in the architecture,” says Dennis LaFrance of Silvester Tafuro, a South Norwalk, CT, design company involved in airport concessions. At the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, for example, this meant limestone floors and tile mosaics depicting Minnesota themes.

For Jewelers

How you can apply these tips to an airport jewelry store? Try prewrapped gold charms with icons of the area so travelers can buy quickly but still get home with a wrapped gift. Inexpensive gemstone rings, pendants or earrings featuring locally mined stones is another idea. But don’t neglect branded watches or jewelry. Sometimes well-heeled travelers are already primed to buy a certain brand. One traveler we know recently bought his wife and himself matching Cartier watches at the end of a particularly happy vacation. The couple were killing time in London’s Heathrow Airport.

– by Mark E. Dixon

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications