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RETAIL/F&B Last modified on December 27, 2012

Every little helps

Pop-up retail, virtual stores and vending machines are just some of the ways airports are making maximum use of the available commercial space in their terminals, writes Joe Bates.

The opening of ‘pop-up’ stores at Helsinki and a ‘virtual’ Tesco store at Gatwick earlier this year are classic examples of how today’s airports are daring to be different when it comes to retail innovation and utilising every centimetre of the terminal building.

An Angry Birds outlet located close to Gate 20 has proved Helsinki’s most popular pop-up store to date.

“The attraction of the temporary shops has exceeded our expectations, the pop-up premise concept has got off to a great start,” admits vice president, Jukka Isomäki, the man responsible for commercial operations at Helsinki Airport.

According to Isomäki, Helsinki Airport’s pop-up shops ensure “variety and nice surprises for the passengers” and “make for a lively service environment and contribute to a good atmosphere.”

Another airport to dabble with the ‘pop-up’ concept this year  was Paris CDG, which opened an IKEA lounge. The facility comprised nine rooms across a 200sqm area that included a living room where vistors could relax on a sofa and watch TV, a children’s play area and bedrooms where occupants could ‘rest in bed’ while they waited for their flights.

A spokesman for the Swedish flatpack furniture retailer told Airport World that its pop-up lounge at Paris CDG had been a great success in promoting the IKEA brand to a global audience.

In true pop-up fashion, the lounge was truly unique and only around for a short time. In its case, between July 13 and August 5.

London’s Heathrow Airport did something equally innovative when it unveiled its own ‘Pop-up Park’ in Terminal 5, where passengers could sit in green surroundings and enjoy a special menu developed by the airport’s eateries.

The airport operator claims that the inspiration for the two week promotion was the desire to do something different and boost customer satisfaction levels as well as food and beverage income.

According to Belgian based pop-up store specialist, PopItUp’s Jody Duyck, “airports have great potential for pop-up stores”.

“Pop-up stores provide a different and exciting way of communicating with customers,” enthuses Duyck. “Stores must be unique and make innovative use of empty spaces. It is smart, cost effective retailing with stores typically around for between a few days and a few months.

“The pop-up experience provides the chance for shoppers to test, taste, see, feel and get to know a brand. Make no mistake about it, people talk about them.”

Equally as innovative and as shortlived as the IKEA Lounge and Pop-up Park, was the UK’s first interactive virtual grocery store, opened by Tesco in Gatwick’s North Terminal last August.

Aimed at UK residents, it allowed passengers to browse a range of products by scrolling through ‘moving screens on large virtual fridges’ before using their smartphones to place an order – by scanning bardcoded items – and book home deliveries in the same way as you can do online.

The airport said that it was designed to ensure that the “hassle of returning home to an empty fridge” was no longer an issue for UK based passengers, noting that more than 30,000 people departed from the terminal daily, each of which has an average of 70 minutes downtime at the airport.


Sweet dreams
As reported in Airport World earlier this year, an ever-increasing number of airports are introducing sleep cabins or pods as a way of making money from under utilised or empty spaces in their terminals.

Often located in walkways or empty spaces near to gates, they provide passengers with a small, private haven in which to rest up and relax for as little as two hours or as long as overnight.

Gateways to introduce such facilities include Moscow Sheremetyevo (Sleepbox), Dubai International Airport, which has invested in 10 modular ‘Snoozecube’ sleep pods in Terminal 1, and Munich, which in late November doubled its number of napcabs to eight.

The new cabins in Munich, located close to Gate H32, include new features such as an iPhone docking and charging station in addition to a bed, desk, customisable air conditioning unit, Internet access and a multimedia touch screen as a central operation and entertainment module.

Marketing manager, Jörg Pohl, says: “The cabins offer everything travellers need to relax or work. The latest flight information is always available, as is an alarm function. The cabins also offer enough space to safely store hand luggage.”

The star feature of Moscow Sheremetyevo’s Sleepbox – it is 1.4 metres wide by two metres in length and 2.3 metres in height – is a two metre long bed made of polymer foam and pulp tissue that changes bed linen automatically. It also comes with luggage space, a ventilation system, Wi-Fi, electric sockets and an LCD TV.

The model unveiled in Moscow is a ‘hostel’ version of the Sleepbox, which includes an additional bunk bed and fold-up desk. The company plans to have installations at over 100 airports within three years.

Baggage management
Space is a luxury few airport operators can afford, and there is much to be gained by making sure each square metre is being used to the best advantage, says Excess Baggage Company’s David Elliot.

Elliot compares the problems faced by airports to those of Europe’s historic old railway stations, where he says space is “at a premium” due to the restraints of their city centre locations.

“Station operators have become adept at wringing every euro out of every bit of space. Airports could do the same by locating additional facilities in under-utilised stretches of the concourse, or even in the corners of a terminal, is one way of generating additional revenue,” he says.

He claims that bag wrap services, which can lead to returns of up to €620 million per annum or coin bag weighing machines, are just a couple of ways airports can turn wasted space into a money-making opportunity.

He also claims that the introduction of home-to-hotel baggage delivery services by some companies will free up space at the terminal or on the flight and make life easier (and cheaper) for the airport, the airline and the passenger, allowing them to travel baggage free.

According to Elliot, smart marketing can give a further fillip to income. “Bag weighing machines can be used to provide information or to direct customers to other amenities at the airport, such as retail outlets or bars and cafes.

“They can also cross-promote other services with special offers or discounts, or they can also vend services such as lounge access, fast track and even destination transfers or hotel reservations.

“Even more imaginatively, advertising space can be sold on bag wrap, providing an extra way of attracting advertising income.”

Offering passengers extra delivery options from duty free retail can also help to up sales. Options such as home-delivery, which will enable passengers to buy in bulk, or gift forwarding can encourage higher spend.

He is, however, quick to point out that the facilities provided must suit the passenger profile at each airport. Bag weighing will be more attractive at airports serving a large percentage of low-cost carriers, for instance, while additional packaging facilities are more likely to be welcomed at airports serving passengers heading for ski resorts who may have sports equipment that requires particular care.

And, of course, it’s not all about the money. “Improving how passengers’ bags are managed at the airport will do much to make the passenger’s journey much more pleasant, and create a much better impression of the total airport experience,” adds Elliot.

Vending machines
Gone, of course, are the days of only being able to buy a fizzy drink or chocolate bar from a vending machine at an airport. Now you can pick from a range of top brands and products, thanks to the newest generation of self-service ‘shops’.

Unlike a simple vending machine concept, The Shopping Wall by Automated Retail Concepts and ZoomShops by ZoomSystems offer consumers a whole new self-service shopping experience.

The Shopping Wall – a stand-alone, fully automated retail shop selling a wide variety of branded products with different dimensions – can now be found at Amsterdam Schiphol and Frankfurt airports.

Electronics and media, perfumes and cosmetics, toys, fashion jewellery and watches are its best selling items, according to managing partner, Eric van Velzen.

He says the appeal of the machines are the fact that they are open for business 24/7, are low cost to operate, easy to install, offer a high income per square metre and can deliver retail “where it counts” – at gates, in lounges, or even inside existing stores.

Van Velzen is honest enough to admit that sales of The Shopping Wall haven’t been anywhere near as good as expected when ARC launched the product three years ago, but says the global economic crisis hasn’t helped.

More optimistically, however, he notes that “the number of airports showing interest is increasing” and he is confident that the future is bright for self-service retail kiosks. He deliberately uses the term kiosk to distinguish his product from traditional vending machines, which he claims have a negative image.

“Our concept scores high on emotion, and that’s what retail is all about,” says van Velzen, who believes that it is time for retail to catch up with other sectors in terms of self-service shopping.

“More services will be automated in the future, like collect on return, gate shopping, lounges, onboard sales, etc,” suggests van Velzen.

“The other big development will be the fact that kiosks such as ours will facilitate more than shopping alone. I am talking about other services that can be done from the same touch screen/terminal, such as hotel and taxi reservations, Internet services and access to lockers to pick-up pre-ordered goods on arrival.”

Indeed, ARC’s latest concept ‘Shop & Collect’ would allow passengers to shop and collect pre-odered goods – bought on the way out in departure shops or even inflight – in just this way.

Elsewhere, ZoomSystems has over 1,300 ZoomShops in airports, resorts, military bases and shopping malls across the US carrying brands such as Apple, Best Buy, Proactiv Solution, Sony and Rosetta Stone.

Founder, Gower Smith, believes that survey results claiming that 97% of consumers would buy self-service retail, is enough evidence to show that vending machines have a healthy future at airports.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta and New York LaGuardia are among the major US gateways to boast a ZoomShop.

Some of the most successful vending machines in Europe can be found at Hamburg Airport, where Media-Saturn’s Saturn Xpress machines enjoy some of the best retail sales of any outlet.

Located in Pier North and Pier South, the machines sell electronic goods and travel merchandise ranging from battery chargers, MP3 players and digital cameras to the new mini iPad and Monster Beats headphones.

They may not yet offer cooked to order pizzas or beer as some vending machines already do in Europe and Latin America, but, there is certainly no doubt that vending machines ain’t what they used to be!


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