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How does holiday shopping help airports?

December 8, 2014

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The Disney Store at Orlando International Airport. Photo by Benét J. Wilson

As a regular traveler, I’m impressed with how airports have stepped up their game when it comes to shopping. And, they have to.  As airlines continue to consolidate and cut flights, airports are becoming more aggressive in finding ways to make up for that lost revenue.

One way to do that is through retail outlets.  Airports have a captive audience that tends to have more discretionary income and more time in their facilities, so it seems only natural to go after those shopping dollars. That’s especially true now that the holiday season has arrived.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport — the world’s busiest — has 263 concession outlets: 114 food and beverage locations, 90 retail and convenience outlets, three duty-free stores and 56 service outlets. The airport’s 2014 budget forecasts that its food, beverage and retail concessions will bring in $94.3 million in revenue.

Hartsfield-Jackson began revamping its retail program back in 2006. As a result, the facility now has a range of retail brands including Brooks Brothers, Kiehl’s, Mont Blanc, Sean Jean and Tommy Hilfiger. It also has vending machines that sell Benefit Cosmetics and Best Buy electronics.

It’s no surprise that Orlando International Airport goes all out with its retail stores. Most travelers arriving and departing are there to visit the area’s  amusement parks. Disney, Sea World, Universal Studio and the Kennedy Space Center all have stores in the airport’s pre-security area. It also features stores like beauty/bath outlet Lush, Harley Davidson and Ron Jon Surf Shop.

I recently attended an event at JetBlue Airways’ Terminal 5 at John F. Kennedy International Airport and had time to kill before my flight home. Not only does the airport have a world-class food and beverage program, it has a thoughtful retail program that offers great options in a range of prices. Retail outlets located in the terminal include: Japan’s Muji To Go, which sells everything from travel accessories to office supplies; Blu Wire, which offers the latest in electronics; and New York Minute, which features apparel, gifts and souvenirs.

You may remember the story I wrote here on what happened to Pittsburgh International Airport after it was dehubbed by US Airways in 2003. Even though the facility has only a fraction the passengers it had before US Airways made its cuts, the facility saw retail as a way to bring in more money decided to go all out and revamp its retail concessions.  Travelers can shop at outlets of Armani Jeans, Creative Kidstuff, Johnston & Murphy and Rite Aid. (On Sunday, the airport opened its shopping concourses to the public.)

Miami International Airport has concessions that bring in $187 million  a year in revenue.  The airport is so high on its retail offerings it created a separate website — Shop Miami Airport — to show off its offerings. Brands represented include Coach, Affordable Luxuries, Hugo Boss and the Miami Heat Store.

So, if you’re looking for fresh shopping story ideas this holiday season, skip the mall and head to your local airport.


AirProjects Inc.

Airports Council International-North America’s Commercial Management Committee

Airport Cooperative Research Program’s Resource Manual for Airport In-Terminal Concessions

Benét J. Wilson is co-editor of AirwaysNews.com and blogs at AviationQueen.com. She has been an aviation/travel journalists for more than 20 years. Follow her on Twitter @AvQueenBenet


  • Benét J. Wilson

    Benét, known as the Aviation Queen, is a senior editor at TPG who is best known for being an aviation journalist for 25-plus years. Her love affair with travel and aviation began at age 6, when her Air Force family moved from California to a military...

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