Spring 2014 Booked for Takeoff

Tattered Cover is part of new “local retail” concept at Denver International Airport.

Travelers looking for a quick read on a red-eye flight might visit a Hudson bookstore at the airport; but in abiding with its mission of keeping its retail uniquely local, readers at Denver International Airport can now choose a book from the new Tattered Cover bookstore—located in Concourse B. Three more locations are expected to open in the airport this year.

The Tattered Cover is an independent bookseller that opened in Denver in 1971. It began as a small 950-square-foot store and over a span of 43 years has grown to include three expansive locations around the Denver metro area, not including the stores opening in the airport. The Tattered Cover is an iconic Denver brand—known for its impressive selection of books and cozy seating, including many overstuffed chairs and sofas. The store welcomes guests to lounge, study, and enjoy a coffee.

Denver all the time

TatteredCover3-copySo, how did a local indie bookstore end up with four locations in a major international airport? Bringing the Tattered Cover to DIA was not even the retailer’s idea. Instead the store is in keeping with DIA’s initiative of transforming the majority of its commercial space into uniquely Denver establishments. While the retail mix at most airports is fairly cookie-cutter, John Ackerman, DIA’s Chief Commercial Officer, says the aim for the airport is to convey an immediate sense of place to travelers. “When you step off the plane in Denver, we want you to feel like you are in Denver, Colorado and the Rocky Mountains.” To that end, Hudson News of Switzerland, the ubiquitous airport bookseller, approached The Tattered Cover to propose a licensing agreement where they would license the brand to create new DIA-only bookstores. Even though Hudson runs the stores they have gone to great lengths to recreate the most popular aspects of the Tattered Cover experience, such as offering the same look and feel of warm brick, lots of wood, and the store’s iconic green accents. Also highly respected about the Tattered Cover is its book selection and the DIA locations will be no different because Tattered Cover will curate the book selections at all the airport locations. Additionally, just like the main stores, the majority of the collections will include books as well as a small selection of magazines and electronic accessory items. How’s the concept working? According to John Ackerman, “the first location is doing really well, customer feedback has been very positive and appreciative, its sales are good and overall Hudson and DIA are pleased.”

Extension to other brands

Ackerman says the airport has dozens of new retail concepts in the works that bring in local brands, mixed in with well-known national and global ones, like McDonald’s. DIA follows a direct leasing model where the airport directly deals with and contracts with retailers rather than have a leasing agent do it for them. DIA plans to transform or update about 75 percent of its locations through this year and the next. Throughout this process, Ackerman says, customer satisfaction with the retail establishments in the airport has gone up tremendously as have revenues.

Why all the changes in retail at DIA now? Most of the reason goes back to the time following the September 11, 2001 tragedies when the airline industry went into a very protective mode. Following 9-11, operators at the airport were offered lease extensions to help keep retailers from moving out as the airline industry and the economy at large suffered. Those leases are now expiring so it’s a great opportunity for the airport to refresh its retail concepts.

To this end, the DIA has instituted a Premium Value Program that quantitatively measures retailers’ success. This rubric scores each retailer on areas such as revenues and customer satisfaction. If a retailer meets the program’s standards by scoring high enough, a new lease is offered; if not, a new retailer is invited in. For the open retail spots, the airport now has a competitive bid process. Ackerman says the result of these changes has been greater competition among the retailers and thus better retail experiences and higher customer satisfaction for the airport’s customers.

Although not unique in this type of transformation, DIA is one of the leaders in instituting this new retail concept of creating a sense of place by inviting iconic local retailers and restaurants in as concessionaires, says Ackerman. “We see DIA as a gateway to the Rocky Mountain West so we want to welcome our guests to Denver in a way unique to our area.”

Melissa M. Kellogg

Melissa M. Kellogg is a freelance writer specializing in small business, marketing, social media and retail business management. She is based in Edwards, CO, and is a regular contributor to GIFT SHOP magazine. Her work has also been published in various newspapers and magazines in the U.S. and Mexico
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