Can airport retailers weather the turbulence?
With travel at historical lows due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, airport retailers that were thriving just a few months ago are now having trouble getting people in the door. An airport in Australia has launched an e-commerce website to try to help its vendors weather the turbulence.
Brisbane Airport launched the BNE Marketplace online store and got the site up and running in only 16 days, according to Airport Technology. While the marketplace currently features 3,000 products from just two of the airport’s major retail partners, the opportunity is open to all retailers in the airport. Martin Ryan, executive general manager for the consumers division at Brisbane Airport Corporation, touts good deals and fast shipping as potential draws to the website, while acknowledging it might not be the first place customers check for products to buy.
Airports had developed into a hotspot for retail innovation in the years prior to the novel coronavirus pandemic. This was especially true internationally, where the last few decades have seen airports featuring an increasing number of themed experiential retailers, luxury retailers and upscale dining locations in the terminals. By 2017, the space was expected to experience high single-digit growth rates for the then-foreseeable future.
There have been other attempts at innovation in airport retail since the start of the pandemic to try to meet the new needs of travelers. For instance, North American airport fixture Hudson announced in June that it planned to roll out automated PPE vending machines in the pre-security areas of airports.
While 2020 had been projected to set a record with 4.72 billion passengers over last year’s 4.54 billion, according to Airport Technology, the pandemic brought the travel and related industries to a grinding halt.
In the U.S., when air travel was at its lowest in the second week of April, only 670,000 people went through airport checkpoints, according to CNN. In comparison, TSA numbers indicate that more than 16,500,000 travelers went through checkpoints that same week in 2019.
U.S. numbers had begun to show a rebound, increasing steadily to 4.7 million passengers in mid-July, but have again begun to sink with new COVID-19 outbreaks in the U.S.
- Going online: a saving grace for airport retail? – Airport Technology
- Will PPE vending kiosks attract travelers? – RetailWire
- Are airports now the sweet spot for luxury retail? – RetailWire
- Why is the U.S. so bad at airport retailing? – RetailWire
- Air traveler numbers drop for first time since April – CNN
- TSA checkpoint travel numbers for 2020 and 2019 – Transportation Security Administration
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What fallout do you expect of COVID-19 for airport retail in the short and long term, and what can retailers do to mitigate the losses they face? Do you see a place for sites like the BNE Marketplace after the pandemic ends?