Airports: the next shopping destination

Airports: the next shopping destination
In 2005, I travelled to Singapore for the first time and I was stunned to see Changi airport. In fact, I didn’t feel like coming out since it had so much to offer travellers. The duty free shops were stacked with all manner of delights — from books to clothes to bags, to shoes, to watches to fragrances and food, the list goes on. Though not at par with Changi, today India too has some good airports that are also becoming great retail destinations for brands, both domestic and international. Yes, this concept is already a success at global airports and now it’s gripping India as well.

Brands such as Burberry, Bottega Veneta, Hermes, Tag Heuer, Gucci, Bvlgari, Montblanc, Ferrari and Chanel among others offer products related to fashion, jewellery and accessories. The reasons behind this phenomenon don’t need a detailed research. An average of one lakh travellers arrive or depart every day from the Terminal 3 of Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport. Even if one considers footfalls at a top shopping mall or market of the country on a Sunday or a national holiday, I doubt if the turnout comes to even half that figure. Also, travellers have to wait before boarding a flight or switching to another flight. This leaves them with plenty of free time to browse and, most often, buy. Even if you are an arrival passenger, one tends to look around the airport premise.

Another key factor is the average person who travels via a flight has a higher disposable income than an average person who enters a mall or shopping area. (Since there is no criterion to enter a mall, which makes it accessible for one and all.) These aspects give rise to a lot of potential buying to happen in the shopping arcade of airports.

Most surveys suggest that tourism, both inbound and outbound, is booming and the trend is positive for years to come. This is the reason that more and more luxury brands are inclined to open stores at airports than at just another mall. According to sources, the sales of branded goods at airports are already seeing tremendous growth.

However, one may argue on two points against the positives of shopping at airports. First, a traveller doesn’t have that right frame of mind to indulge in luxury shopping. Secondly, clients are specific travellers, so one would not get any potential walk-ins. Coming to the first point, though I agree that when one stays under strict time frames and doesn’t want to spend exorbitant sums for luxury shopping in a hurry. But there are a lot of people who plan their travels and have ample time to have a justified look at airport stores. As far as the second point is concerned, I have seen malls putting up various promotions, flea markets and events getting more walk-ins, whereas at airports you have a guarantee of one lakh people as walk-ins.

Therefore, one must understand that splurging while travelling to an from airports, is a success story internationally. Sooner or later, India too will see more and more airports having this business model. Incidentally, the new Mumbai international airport which is all set to be launched next month is already booked to the brim with well known brands.

(The writer is a Delhi-based fashion designer)

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