Winter 2017
Airport Retail Reaches New Heights

Specialty leasing professionals from around the country discuss exciting new trends and concepts in airport retail.

Airport specialty leasing continues to take off. While some products and services have remained much the same over the years, retailers and developers are expanding and experimenting with new ideas. Whether they are navigating the concourse of an international or domestic airport—from Colorado and California to Canada, travelers are looking for the standard suite of products and services: food, newsstand offerings, personal care products, gifts and quite possibly … an Auntie Anne’s pretzel.

Ross Provenzano and Deborah Kravitz of PRI, a specialty retail and consulting firm, operate the specialty leasing program at Denver International Airport. The slate of offerings includes 15 kiosks, four vending operations, two pop-up shops and 24 retail merchandising units on three concourses. Kravitz says that a good percentage of the program is stable and that a few of the steady performers such as Bose, are featured in all three concourses. As the operator, PRI is responsible for all staff TSA badging and employ over 300 people, including retail personnel, in the program. According to Provenzano, “Sales are on track to exceed $18.5 million this year and over 49% of our program is operated by women-owned or minority businesses.”

Kravitz has always been a proponent for regular and frequent change in the common area whether at the airport or in a shopping center. She believes the customer is looking for fresh products and the DIA team canvases the market to bring unique and creative uses to the airport program.

Cupcakes, watches, cargo, oh my!

 Take Smallcakes for example, a nationally recognized franchise that specializes in fresh-baked gourmet cupcakes. “One of the biggest challenges is just how much preparation goes into the smallest element in operations here. Our challenge will be gauging the correct amount of product we will need to prepare every day,” said Rebekah Lydon, owner of Smallcakes, located in Terminal A, adjacent to the food court at DIA.

Another retailer new to DIA is Daniel Wellington, a popular Swedish watch company. Brianna Amoroso, Key Account Manager, Travel Retail, at Daniel Wellington said the company was excited to be launching at DIA as the first airport in the Americas. The launch is a stepping stone to a global expansion.

Then there’s VEA Kids, located near baggage claim, in the rental hub with the rental car and transportation companies. The concept is specifically tailored for families who are looking to solve the problem of all the extra “stuff” right where most trips begin and end. VEA Kids provides car seats, strollers, play yards and other essential childcare equipment and supplies at the destination airport. No more lugging all that extra gear to and through airports. Families can reserve equipment online ahead of time, or simply walk up if they forgot something, or if airlines damage or lose their property. Staff even helps haul the rental equipment to a rental car and return can be done at the booth. VEA Kids is in negotiation with six other airports.

Taspen’s Organics, a wholesaler and retailer, is yet another successful, local temporary tenant with two locations at Denver International Airport. Taspen’s also operates a store at Flatiron Crossing in Broomfield, Colo. Taspen’s manufactures over 180 different products. Face creams, eye cream, wrinkle cream, serum and cleanser are among their most popular. “We use thousands of herbs to create our products, which are all made with food and plant-based ingredients,” said Keith Baruch of Taspen’s. “My wife is an herbalist and we use herbs for different aspects of wellness.” Baruch says his company’s success at DIA is based on repeat customers and driving traffic to their website to purchase goods. “We give out samples of 10 different products and it drives people to buy even more over the Internet,” he said.

The successful staples

Already a hit at shopping centers, Auntie Anne’s Pretzels has also become a staple in over a dozen airports in the United States. After all, who can escape the smell of fresh-baked cinnamon sugar pretzels and coffee? Mike McCoy, Vice President of Franchise Sales at Auntie Anne’s says airport travelers are in a hurry and look for quick, convenient food options, but are not willing to sacrifice quality.

“Our products, especially our Pretzel Nuggets and Pretzel Dog, are the perfect portable snacks for on-the-go travelers. We are also a fresh option. This combination of convenience, portability and freshness—not to mention deliciousness—makes us an ideal fit for airports,” McCoy said.

As part of FOCUS Brands portfolio, Auntie Anne’s has the ability to leverage their other three concepts, Cinnabon and Carvel at many locations, including airports. The airport units are similar in size to the mall locations, but they offer an extended menu in airports including breakfast sandwiches with egg, cheese and bacon or sausage on an Auntie Anne’s pretzel bun.

Canada calls

In Canada at Calgary Airport, Laura Horne, Manager, Commercial and Retail Development, sees that brands are recognizing the benefit of airport retail.

In October 2016, YYC Calgary International Airport opened the doors to its largest infrastructure project to date, the new International Terminal. The airport now boasts 185 shops, restaurants and services, as well as two hotels, a 296-room, four-star Delta Hotel and the new Marriott In-Terminal Hotel with 318 rooms. The two terminals have eight children’s play areas in addition to a space-themed visitor attraction, Spaceport.

“We had a great deal of interest from national and international brands in the expanded terminal including from Metalsmiths Sterling, The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck and Desigual,” said Horne.

Horne sees merchandising for international passengers differently than for domestic travelers. “In the U.S. departures and international terminal, we have several sit-down restaurants in addition to quick service options,” she said. There is an emphasis on high-end retail with walk-through, duty-free stores and an assortment of souvenir type retail in the departure halls. The YYC operates 10 retail merchandising units and multiple kiosks and wall units.

Experience is everything

Westfield, known for being a retail experience company, has brought a similar mission and vision to the airport industry. Iris Messina, Vice President Airport Leasing, pointed out that travelers are customers, too, and their needs are evolving. “They want a stress-free experience that gives them options. They want good food. They want exciting retail brands. They want to be entertained,” Messina said, “Westfield helps its airport and airline partners provide a more holistic experience by transforming everything a traveler sees and touches in the terminal.”

At Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) Westfield has worked on a design that mixes dining and retail, catering to the traveler’s needs with a precise mix of grab-and-go food, news and gifts, fine dining and luxury retail. In the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX, travelers have more time to spend and according to Messina are apt to sit down for fine dining or shop in stores like Emporio Armani, Fred Segal and Hugo Boss. The terminal also has a curated local mix that delivers an L.A. feel, recreating Sunset Boulevard. From Downtown L.A. to the beach, the new terminal offers a sense of place in a fun, engaging way. “We introduced local brands like Point the Way Café from Golden Road Brewing—a local craft brewery—Osteria by Fabio Viviani, Earthbar and M.Fredric. These brands provide a sense of place to LAX, and travelers even look forward to coming back,” she said.

At Chicago O’Hare’s Terminal 5, Westfield has blended luxury retail brands with local favorites like I Love Chicago, which sells goods from local artisans and Vosges Haut- Chocolate, a local chocolatier. Specialty retail, RMUs, pop-ups and flex spaces are opportunities to surprise and delight travelers. In November, in partnership with American Airlines, Westfield opened a pop-up activation at JFK International Airport Terminal 8. The activation is part of a virtual reality roadshow that will bring an immersive experience to the public. The unique experience is free and will offer an introduction to virtual reality.

For Westfield, the common area shopping experience is always evolving. With a focus on immersive retail using local, regional and national brands, they too have blurred the lines between entertainment, retail, and dining. Gate areas and hold rooms now deliver a more holistic experience.

A great example of this is Naturally Inspired at Orlando International Airport. Retail owner and operator, Debbie Strisko, approached Westfield with an idea for a new business that features handcrafted wares from artisans around the globe, with an emphasis on those that practice fair trade, give back and recycle, reclaim and reuse. Naturally Inspired started as an RMU in 2011, and became a temporary store, finally evolving into a permanent inline store in 2016.

In addition to LAX, Westfield’s airport division operates in Boston’s Logan Airport, Newark Liberty Airport, Orlando, Chicago O’Hare and Miami International.

With a whole array of exciting new concepts and experiences it is clear that airport retail continues to soar, catering to busy travelers with products they need, might enjoy and even welcome. Borrowing seamlessly from shopping centers, airport specialty retail is fast delivering on its promise of becoming a hot new venue for both local and national retailers. Look for more fun specialty retail concepts to land at an airport near you.

Duffy C. Weir

Duffy Weir is the former vice president and director of specialty retail and marketing at The Rouse Company of Columbia, MD. Now an independent retail marketing and sponsorship consultant and writer, Weir travels the world searching for what she says "makes marketplaces tick." She can be reached at or 410.252.8885.
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