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Airport Retail Takes Off

Unlike traditional malls where consumers typically go with shopping as their primary purpose, people are usually at an airport because they are traveling or because they work at the airport and shopping is secondary. But retail at the airport is increasingly important. Since 9/11 we have been limited in what we can carry in our luggage and we end up having to buy last minute amenities. More extensive security policies mean we have to arrive at the airport much earlier than in the past, too, so we have more time to spend in the terminal – eating, shopping, connecting, or simply taking a moment to relax. And reduced food and beverage options on the planes themselves mean we want more options in the terminal, packed neatly for carry-on.

Even though many of the brands we see in airports are the same we might see closer to home, shops and restaurants in airports have to be designed differently in order to create a more relaxing travel experience, show off the airport’s region as a destination, provide the right mix of amenities for travelers, and not least of all drive revenue for the airport itself.

At this week’s International Retail Design Conference I am speaking about New Models of Airport Retail with my colleague, Melissa Mizell, and our client, Ray Quesada – project manager in the Bureau of Design and Construction at San Francisco International Airport. We’ll present SFO’s recently renovated Terminal 2 to illustrate that well-planned airport amenities can greatly impact the passenger experience, even create a sense of community between the retail tenants, customers, and airlines in this public space where they converge. Since its renovation, SFO T2’s per-passenger food, beverage and non-duty free retail revenue has increased dramatically, and the terminal is now #1 in per-passenger food and beverage sales in the U.S. The terminal was recently featured in the Chicago Tribune as one of the best airports for shopaholics – so we must have done something right! We hope you’ll join us at IRDC in San Francisco, and hope your trip takes you through T2 on the way.

After the conference, I will share the details of my presentation on GenslerOn and, along with my colleagues, will talk about the buzz at this year’s IRDC.

Jeff Henry is a Principal and Design Director for Retail Design and Store Planning Studio at Gensler’s San Francisco office. Jeff’s conceptual approach to design is enhanced by his attention to detail. His ability to provide creative solutions to complex design problems has made him a valued leader of many Gensler project teams. Contact him at jeff_henry@gensler.com.

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