In the last year we have worked with airports from all over the world and we have seen dynamic, inventive and often breath-taking retail and F&B concepts which has begged the question: why hasn’t the high street kept up with these innovations, and what can it learn?

Store layouts in airports have long been adapted to accommodate travellers with backpacks or suitcases and still have a diverse range of products on display. Often on the high street however, we see parents with pushchairs or customers with bulky shopping bags struggle with tight aisles and inconveniently located gondolas. Layouts that allow people to flow freely through the store make the environment more appealing, facilitating longer dwell times and, ultimately, higher conversion rates.

Refresh the look and feel of the store. To draw passengers in, airport retailers use numerous innovations such as movable furniture, electronic window displays or pop-ups to attract attention. Too many high street retailers have static displays that remain unchanged for too long. Frequently updated and seasonal visual merchandising can help a store to stand out and pull customers in.

Strong external façades in airports help differentiate retail offers and communicate their brand values, making them stand out from their competitors. High street retailers need to move beyond merely dressing a window and present clear messaging around the store proposition across the entire fascia. Someone walking down the opposite side of the road needs to be given a reason to cross, and an interesting or bold shop front can do that.

Sampling and in-store theatre in airports drives consumer engagement. By providing a talking point for potential customers in the store, retailers can increase the number of transactions and ATV by converting browsers into buyers or increasing basket size.

Targeting specific flights and passengers is becoming more common in airports and by adjusting their merchandising and offers through the day high street retailers can take advantage of the different profiles of potential customers, from the school run, to the lunchtime trade, to office workers on the way home.

While the high street faces different challenges to airports, smart retailers can take learnings from aviation hubs and apply them to their store estate. Doing so will only improve their customers’ engagement and experience, helping them become one step ahead of their competition.

Chris van Ryswyck