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Apr 30, 2019 | 3 minute read

Retail pop-ups at the airport: turn passengers into customers

written by Linda Farha

Leisure, pleasure or business - air travel is one of the top forms of transportation for people across the world – and in 2017, almost one billion flights took off from the US alone. 

Although processes at airports are becoming more streamlined due to the introduction of innovative technological systems, travelers are still waiting over an hour on average between getting through security and boarding the plane. With nowhere else to go, most passengers pass the time either eating, drinking or shopping, which means that airports are retail hot spots. That’s good news for brands who can leverage this to tap into continual, fresh foot traffic.

A 2016 report by GlobalData found that spending in airports had hit $38-billion globally, and was on track to grow by 27%, to $49-billion, by 2021. 

Foot traffic is one of the most important metrics for retailers, especially those who are executing a pop-up, as they want to ensure maximum exposure for their temporary event. Airports are not only a source of constant, high-volume foot traffic, but they also present a unique situation whereby shoppers and brands are brought together in an isolated environment. With customers confined to a particular area with little else to do, there is an increased chance of having them visit activations to check out an event or purchase product.

Temporary retail or experiential marketing events in airports are a great way to reach an international customer base without having to leave the tarmac. This isn’t just great for brand exposure, but also for conducting market research, thus educating brands on how to effectively make key business decisions related to expansion opportunities, both local and international.

World domination is the goal for luxury brands, so airport pop-ups are a go-to marketing exercise for well-known companies like Tiffany & Co., who strategically placed a giant version of their signature blue box in New York’s JFK Airport to promote their latest fragrance.

Skift_Tiffany&Co_JFK_Get ElasticSource: Skift

Or Grey Goose who executed a holiday activation in Toronto’s Pearson Airport with vodka based cocktails and a walk-in snow globe engineered for the perfect selfie.

Global Marketing Company_Grey Goose_Pearson_Get ElasticSource: Global Marketing Company

It’s not hard to gauge the success of these luxury pop-ups, given the positive response of high-end permanent travel retail tenants. Kering, which owns brands like Gucci, Saint Laurent and Balenciaga, has been using airport retail as part of its growth plans, revealing that airport locations were the driving force behind their increased store count in 2018, and currently makes up 6% of the company’s overall revenue. Gucci alone added 11 terminal based locations, showing the group’s drive to raise its brands’ presence in travel retail and duty-free stores.

Airport retail isn’t just reserved for high-end brands, as businesses with smaller budgets have benefited from executing events in regional airports, which often offers its own brand of travelers, such the business commuter. Boutique florist, Flowerly, seized the opportunity to pop-up at Toronto’s Pearson, the city’s regional airport. Flowerly’s Valentine’s pop-up at the airport’s arrival’s terminal was a thoughtfully executed event that catered to people arriving to Toronto, enabling them to buy specialty arrangements for loved ones before heading on their way.

Airport retail is now a tried and tested strategy. Pop-ups are a great way to generate revenue and raise brand awareness through ideal positioning, which has consistently allowed brands to access a plethora of eager and diverse shoppers.