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Developing the retail experience at airports

Sep 18th 2012, 10:05

Developing the retail experience at airports

With more than 200 retail offerings at South Africa’s international airports in total (O.R. Tambo, Cape Town and King Shaka), including 10 exchange banks and 160 specialty shops, dominated by apparel, these bustling hubs have become a shopping niche.

However, one challenge both retailers and the airports need to address is to assist consumers navigate through the terminal buildings and find their boarding gates. Making it easier for travellers to find their way at airports will help increase the time they spend shopping.

This is particularly relevant for foreign travellers (split between Business, 55% and Leisure, 45%), who are often not familiar with the airport layout, but who like to shop at the airport so they can take a piece of South African with them and “buy the experience,” says Jabulani Khambule, Manager of the retail division at O.R. Tambo International Airport, part of Airports Company South Africa.

Airport consumers are surprisingly selective and particularly discerning in their purchase decisions.

“It is therefore critical that the retailer should have the right product, price and service quality on offer to these customers,” adds Khambule.

South Africa’s international airports will soon be kitted out with directional units nationally (like those found in local shopping centres), which will provide way-finding in English and foreign languages, like Mandarin.

In addition, there are already I-Help agents in strategic locations at the airports to assist with way-finding as well as television screens placed around the airport terminals, which communicate retail offers and critical information to passengers, such as, the distance to boarding gates.

Retail categories, such as food, apparel, electronics, stationery and book shops are successful in the airport format, particularly when they adapt to trading in this environment.

Since travel and consequently the airport, is essential for meeting the business and leisure necessities of South Africans and the world over, it is imperative that retailers understand the shopping patterns of airport users to adequately meet their needs.

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