By: Lewis Allen, Director of Environments, Portland Design   •   email:

For 70 years the science of travel retail was built around a concept that one retail Einstein once described as the ”Travel Retail Black Hole Theory’. The behaviours, laws and forces that constitute this theory have been used to define and programme travel retail spaces for decades.

However, analysis of newly discovered retail forces have undermined the credibility of this much cherished theory. A new theory using these latest discoveries is gaining traction with a new generation of retail eggheads.

The phenomenon of the Travel Retail Black Hole was first observed at Shannon Airport in 1947. It gave proof that airports could behave as the theoretically predicted ‘Retail Event Horizon’ – a threshold where airports become a separation point between the different domains and laws of domestic retail and travel retail.

The mechanism to activate this ‘Retail Event Horizon’ was discovered by the ‘Shannon Airport Travel Retail Big Bang’. The Shannon team made the crucial realisation that it is possible to ‘capture’ passenger entities – both physically and metaphysically – in a highly controlled commercial environment. And in a region of airport space and time outside the domain of domestic retail. Thus the first of many travel retail black holes was formed, now more commonly referred to as ‘Duty Free’.

The Shannon Airport Big Bang experiment not only gave birth to travel retail black holes, it also created airport space/time. This being defined as the experience of time spent captured with the travel retail domain.

It is well documented that the laws governing the behaviour of space and time within Travel Retail black holes are uniquely shaped by the so-called ‘Captive Audience Effect’ – a condition where passenger entities experience temporary confinement inside the constrained spaces of Travel Retail black holes.

In this ‘captive audience’ condition, the dynamic of space/time is experienced differently from the domestic retail environment. Characteristically, it becomes less interesting to passenger entities and more expensive to the tenant entities that are also present and captured there. Both the captive audience and tenant experience is very often recorded as inferior to that of space/time in the domestic retail domain.

Now, studies of space/time in Travel Retail black holes have shown that the regions of this dimension are uniformly ‘cookie-cutter’ and replicated from one to another. The predictable dynamic of this experience is described as ‘Airport Space/Time Boredom’. Or, more commonly, just plain boring.

Contemporary retail Einsteins attribute this experience gap to the ‘Forces of Complacency’ that have been discovered to multiply within a Travel Retail black hole after sustained periods of exposure to captive audience activity.

The exceptions are some supermassive Travel Retail black holes. Some passenger entities that have successfully traversed more than one Travel Retail black hole have reported their space/time experiences as being more interesting. This is possibly because the larger scale of these Travel Retail domains is capable of generating the elusive ‘WOW! Particle’ when in collision with the greater number of passenger entities that they capture. Notable quantities of sustained WOW! have been recorded inside the Changi and Schiphol supermassive black holes, but have so far proven more difficult to generate consistently elsewhere.

Fast forward to today. The causality of multiple digital forces interacting both outside and inside Travel Retail black holes has caused a new generation of retail Einsteins to rethink the programming model for Travel Retail. In remarkable new studies, observers have learned that Travel Retail black holes could become the vanishing point in an otherwise quickly expanding retail universe. They propose that Travel Retail black holes are beyond the golden age of their lifecycle and about to enter a cooling and contraction phase.

Measurement of omnichannel effects alone suggests that Travel Retail black holes as we know them today are vulnerable. They could theoretically be dissolved by the various digital storms that are now confirmed as being more frequent and having more intense effects.

The most corrosive of these digital storms for Travel Retail black holes is omnichannel. The seamless and integrated features of omnichannel forces make them irresistibly attractive to passenger entities. Modelling projections show that omnichannel forces alone are enough to soften the retail event horizon between the domains of domestic and travel retail. The consequence of which is a degrading of the ‘captive audience’ effect. This, in turn, leads to a ‘Free Audience Effect’ – a scenario where passenger entities move freely through new digital worm holes that virtually penetrate into and beyond the region of Travel Retail black holes.

These insights have led to the reappraisal of a theory that has been much neglected and suspiciously contemplated by Travel Retail elites: the ‘Travel Retail Digital Big Bang Theory’.

The theory predicts that a Travel Retail Big Bang is imminent. It will be an event substantially larger in scale and effect than the Shannon Airport Big Bang of 70 years ago.

It is predicted as a moment that will signal both an ending and a beginning. The end of Travel Retail black holes as we know them today and the beginning for a second golden age of airport space/time. In the post digital Big Bang era, it is predicted that the airport retail event horizon will simply melt away. The ‘captive audience’ effect will be obliterated. Passenger entities will roam digitally-free. The forces of complacency will expire.

The new theory disambiguates current uncertainties surrounding the long term stability of Travel Retail black holes. It proposes a new era for airport space/time. It anticipates a future from where ‘WOW!’ particles will replicate and amplify freely in their interactions with passenger entities travelling through and beyond airports.

According to those retail Einsteins, it’s just a question of time.

Watch this space.

Peter Marshall

Founder: Arts
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