Retail Highlights

New airport retail and concessions concepts are opening all the time, offering travelers a variety of options. Joseph Waller, VP of business development with HMS Host, recently spoke with AIRPORT BUSINESS about the trends his company is seeing. Also, a recap of some of the latest in retail and concessions news as airports prepare to meet in Reno (sidebar).

Waller says HMS Host has been seeing more of a focus on quality and name brands in airports. "In food and beverage, we're doing a lot of work with celebrity chefs like Wolfgang Puck and Todd English," he says, "giving people a chance to try some really terrific food that they might not be able to get in their hometown. It's very popular."

At Port Columbus (OH) International Airport, HMS Host started with a Wolfgang Puck kiosk. The concept was so popular that a Wolfgang Puck Express restaurant is now being planned for the airport.

Waller suggests that increased time in terminals because of increased security requirements could contribute to the traveling public's desire for higher-end dining options. "When you've got time to spend, you've got a little more time for a good meal," he says.

Another trend Waller sees is an increased interest in healthy dining options. "In Minneapolis, we have the French Meadow Bakery & Café and it's been hugely successful," he says. The all-natural bakery carries organic breads, organic oatmeal, and a variety of organic salads, sandwiches, and French Meadow's Famous Organic Wraps. French Meadow Bakery's breads are yeast-free, dairy-free, oil-free, and contain no sweeteners.

Eaturna, a nutritional food eatery at Los Angeles International Airport where travelers can enjoy fresh gourmet salads, all-natural wraps, and sandwiches prepared with organic ingredients is another of HMS Host's offerings.

In terms of design of food and beverage outlets, Waller says airports are seeing more "terrace seating," where the seating extends out of the restaurant space itself and into the concourse. "It's very inviting," he says. "It allows people to keep an eye on their gate, or even just people watch." This type of seating may also lead to increased revenue. "Anytime you add seats, you more often than not add revenue," says Waller.

Waller says that national brands are still very popular in airports — particularly for those that might not travel as often and feel more comfortable with names they know. At the same time, local brands being brought into the airport to give travelers a taste of the region are also a continuing trend. "It really depends on each airport's unique situation — the mix of passengers that they've got," he adds. "In the right environment, local concepts can be really good. It's just finding the right fit."

Delaware North Companies Travel Hospitality Services, an airport food service and retail provider, is awarded an eight-year contract to expand operations of food and beverage services at Nashville International Airport. The winning bid is part of Phase One of the airport's $44 million renovation project, scheduled to begin this fall. Delaware North officials say the company will bring a mix of local and national brands designed to offer a broad palette of flavors, cuisines, and menu choices which showcase the city and are popular with Nashville visitors. The first wave of new facilities is due to open in November 2007; www.DelawareNorth.com.

HDS Retail opens the newest of its RELAY News & Gift stores in Toronto-Pearson International Airport. The concept is designed to allow for a strong sense of place and to add a humorous touch through fun facts about the merchandise sold and about the city where the store is located. The concept also drives revenues through merchandising novelties such as open-reach beverage coolers built into the cash desk — similar units have increased beverage sales by as much as 30 percent in test stores. HDS Retail expects to have a dozen new RELAY stores built within the next six months in U.S. and Canadian airports; www.hdsrna.com.

BAA Boston, operator of the AIRMALL® at Boston's Logan International Airport, announces the opening of Powered by Borders® and Starbucks®, offering a combination of high-end electronics and java blends to keep travelers charged for their trips. Travelers can find electronics and accessories at Powered by Borders®, with an array of products that includes i-Pods and carrying cases, batteries, headphones, and audiobooks. The Starbucks® stores are located in Terminals B and E; www.airmall.com.

Fisher-Price® rolled out its airport Playgate™ concept in October 2004 at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport with two different play spaces.Since then, millions of young travelers have enjoyed the comfort, appeal, and welcome distractions it's designed to offer. The Fisher-Price PlayGate is a space dedicated to families, full of toys and fun, safe activities for young children. The first space is located at Gate 14, with approximately 800 square feet. The second space is located outside of security in the food court area for departing travelers and waiting guests to enjoy and features two of Fisher-Price's most popular preschool characters – Little People and Rescue Heroes. Through murals, shadowbox displays, and toys, this Playgate fuels children's imaginations by inviting them into the worlds of characters they love. Fisher-Price seeks to partner with airports who see this as a new amenity for families with young children and will provide space free of charge. In return, Fisher-Price provides the equipment and ongoing support of the new play feature; www.fisher-price.com.

HMSHost has found success with some unique concepts, including Casa BACARDI®. The product of a joint development project between HMSHost and BACARDI & Company Limited, the bar/restaurant showcases the customs, cuisine, and flavors of the Caribbean Islands. Café style seating, vibrant décor elements, and glass outer walls complete the retail location.

Stellar Partners, Inc.'s Mindworks stores can be found at airports such as Washington-Dulles International, Miami International, Newark Liberty International, and DFW International. Mindworks is a specialty children's store, offering a unique mix of nostalgic and modern toys, games, and gifts for children of all ages. Each store combines plasma video displays, activity tables, and toy demonstrations to create a playtime oasis for travelers; www.stellarairportstores.com.

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