travel

Airports Know There’s Room in Your Carry-On

Shopping centers are following travelers OOO.
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Francis Scialabba

· less than 3 min read

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Don’t call the mall “dead.” According to the WSJ, “permanent vacation” is a better term for its current status. The reason? Shopping centers are following travelers OOO in the form of souped-up airport retail.

Today’s traveler has an average of 72 minutes to kill between getting through security and boarding for Bali. So retailers are nudging them to stuff their carry-ons with duty-free moisturizers while they wait. Global sales at duty-free and travel-retail stores reached a record $76 billion last year, per the Data Circle, up 9.3% from 2017.

Who’s benefiting? Give frequent fliers more places to swipe their credit cards, and they’ll take a Robin Sparkles approach to a layover in Terminal C.

  • Estée Lauder said that airport stores unseated U.S. department stores as the company’s top revenue driver for the first time last year.
  • L’Oréal’s travel sales grew 27% last year, reaching over $2.3 billion.

There’s even more space in the overhead compartment. Last year’s rise in travel-store spending was driven by only 15% of travelers shopping at the airport.

  • With so much room to grow, retailers are targeting markets with huge spending potential—aka China. A representative for Bacardi’s travel team said only 9% of people in China have a passport, and about 7,000 Chinese travelers take their first international flight every day.

And retailers are trying to catch customers everywhere they travel. New York City’s subways may soon resemble shopper-friendly airports—the MTA plans to renovate three major transportation hotspots into retail hubs.

Bottom line: The experience economy might work in retail’s favor after all—so long as travelers are stamping receipts along with their passports. “When a department store goes away, it’s not a major catastrophe,” Olivier Bottrie, Estée Lauder’s global president of travel retail, told the WSJ. “But if a major airport went away, it would be a major catastrophe.”

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