By: Keith Hunter of Hunter Palmer – Global Retail Solutions   •   email:

There is no denying that online shopping has had a significant impact within the retail industry, causing uncertainty regarding the perceived lifespan of traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ stores. ‘Retail Apocalypse’ is a favoured headline being bandied about by scaremonger tabloids. If you believe everything you read, Amazon will very soon be taking over the world of shopping and the rest of us may well pack up and go home.

So where does that leave Travel Retail? Do we just roll over and succumb to global takeover by the online giants?

The problem is that airports simply can’t afford to lose this source of revenue. While there may be options for add-ons, there is really only so much you can charge for car parking – although a couple of airports have made a concerted effort to push those boundaries. Non-aeronautical revenue still accounts for a substantial slice of the airport pie and retail plays a dominant role in that revenue.

Instead of giving in to external challenges to their retail operations, airports should push the envelope when it comes to customer service and driving experiences associated with each purchase. Airports remain the perfect environment to showcase the latest products and innovations. They can stage the ultimate range of experiential concepts, allowing the customer the chance to experience and interact with a product first – in a way that cannot be replicated online. However, when these experiences are coupled seamlessly with technology, allowing customers greater control of the whole process. a single transaction can be turned into an ongoing one – leading to increased spend on associated products and services and generally giving each consumer the flexibility to dictate their retail journey. The outcome can be retail nirvana.

We are not quite yet in a world where face-to-face communication is dead. While the Millennials are transfixed by their phones, there is still a large percentage of the global population who are generally older and arguably wiser, who still favour shopping in an actual shop rather than in the virtual world. In addition, a huge percentage of the developing world, many of whom work in construction or the service industry, travel to far-flung places to find work and pass through airports continuously. But they can’t afford a smartphone or shop online. Then again, the general population do still walk into a shop and make a purchase.

The reality is there is still a bright future in airport shopping, and stores will continue to be an integral part of omni-channel retailing in the future. Of course technology needs to be embraced. Digital innovation is essential in retail evolution and many airport businesses are now adapting their practices to capitalise on this, racing to be the market leaders. When considering the fact that a spending passenger is only passing through a terminal and their time there is brief, facilitating an easier and more flexible transaction that can be continued online can only be a benefit.

Articles love to predict a demise, but human interaction and spontaneous purchasing will take a long time to disappear.

Peter Marshall

Founder: Arts
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