Airport Retailers Reopen With Fresh, Digital, and Sustainable Strategies to Boost Sales

by | Jul 19, 2021 | Airports, News, Retailing

As air travelers return, airport concessionaires reopen with creative new strategies to encourage passengers to linger and spend, even before heading out to the airport.

At Munich Airport, where traffic has recovered to 400 take-offs and landings and over 30,000 passengers every day, more than 20 restaurants and bars, around 45 shops, and six car rental offices have reopened across the two terminals, the Munich Airport Center (MAC) and the Visitors Park.

New arrivals in retail include “Hard Rock Cafe Munich Airport Rock Shop” on MAC Level 03, in the passageway to Terminal 1, which offers collectibles and memorabilia from the Hard Rock Cafe. There’s also a new food and beverage provider dean&david — a Munich-based company offering healthy food options made with high-quality ingredients and focused on sustainable consumption. They offer salads, Bowls, smoothies, and other healthy choices after security control in Terminal 2, Level 04.

The “MyDutyFree” retail space in Terminal 2, Level 04, was enhanced with a hospitality area, with a bar and stools, where passengers can relax. At the same time, they learn more about the products offered and get advice from retail staff. For added fun, a new digital wheel of fortune gives passengers departing from Terminal 2 a chance to win prizes, including shopping vouchers or gifts.

Earlier this year, Munich Airport-owned retailer Eurotrade made it easier for shoppers to pay for their purchases by introducing a contactless PayPal QR Code feature to point-of-sale machines.

As International Airport Review reports, SEA Milan Airports and JFKIAT (which operates Terminal 4 at JFK Airport in New York) have introduced online portals for their on-site luxury retailers. These digital storefronts give passengers more time to browse from home or from the airport lounge to collect purchases on the day of departure.

“The Milano Malpensa Boutique Marketplace is a project started before the pandemic, strengthened by the crisis that accelerated its development,” said Luigi Battuello, Director of Non-Aviation Business Development at SEA. “Innovation, including in retail, is an essential part of SEA’s strategy to improve the overall passenger experience.”

Customers in T4, shopping from the JFKIAT virtual marketplace, can have products delivered directly to their gates.

“In the wake of the pandemic, it is critical for our customers and employees to feel as safe as possible, and ensuring contactless experiences is an important component to rebuilding confidence in air travel,” said Roel Huinink, President and CEO of JFKIAT. “As we begin to see more passenger traffic return, we are pleased to offer a new way for our customers to enjoy a premium shopping experience at T4. We look forward to more of our retail partners joining this new platform, as well.”

Capitalizing on Sustainable Retail

Airport retail analysts m1ndfull published a report earlier this year showing consumers have a greater interest in sustainable purchases following the pandemic.

“Our research shows that global consumers, in general, have become significantly more socially and environmentally conscious since the outbreak of the pandemic, with around two-thirds claiming to be making more environmentally friendly or ethical purchases over the past 12 to 14 months. It’s estimated that around 90% of these consumers also claim they will continue to place greater importance on sustainability,” m1nd-set wrote in their 1nsights newsletter.

“In research undertaken during the first quarter of 2021 among over 2000 international travelers from all over the world, we see that 35% of international travelers purchase more sustainable or environmentally friendly products compared to pre-Covid-19. This tendency is even higher among travelers who are willing to fly again immediately after bans and quarantines are lifted (45%), as well as among Chinese travelers (41%), business travelers (40%), and older Millennials (39%).

“We also see a marked increase in the importance given to sustainability compared to pre-Covid when shopping. 55% of travelers say they are giving more consideration to naturally sourced and health-conscious products than before the pandemic. This is particularly higher for haircare (62%) and fine food products (61%). The shopper segments for which this perception is higher than the average include travelers from Latin America (59%), older Millennials, frequent travelers and business travelers (all 58%).”

Offering sustainable products can have a significant positive impact on brand perception and could boost the profile of other airport sustainability initiatives. As m1nd-set found:

  • 86% of travel retail and duty-free shoppers say that a greater focus on sustainability by manufacturers positively impacts their perception of the brand. This is even higher among Millennials (93%), travelers from Latin America (92%), Female travelers (90%), and North Americans (88%).
  • 73% of shoppers say that a greater focus on sustainability by manufacturers increases the likelihood of purchasing a brand, in particular Female travelers (82%), Millennials (79%), and Europeans (76%).
  • When asked if they will actively look for more sustainable / environmentally friendly products when shopping at the airport on their next trip, 54% of shoppers said they would. Among Millennials, females, and North Americans, this was even more affirmative.
  • The categories for which sustainable products will be the most sought are skincare (68%), haircare (66%), and make-up (61%).
  • The main reasons those who said they would not seek out more sustainable products were the lack of knowledge on how to differentiate between sustainable and other products (26%), lack of time (23%), and trust issues with sustainable labels (19%).
  • 66% of consumers say they would pay more for sustainable products, particularly females (70%). 45% of shoppers say they would pay up to 20% more, 18%, up to 30% more, and 8% of shoppers would pay up to 40% more if the product is environmentally friendly.


Airports retailers can increase sustainability by offering alternatives to traditional duty-free plastic shopping bags, including multi-use cotton or hemp bags, which could be printed with a brand logo or airport code and sold on-site to serve as out-of-home advertising. Alternatively, they could offer biodegradable or soluble plastic bags. According to m1nd-set, consumers are willing to pay for sustainable shopping bag alternatives.

  • 75% of international travelers say they would be willing to pay for a reusable non-plastic bag, compared to 39% who say they would prefer to continue using traditional duty-free shopping bags but not paying more for them.
  • 22% say they would prefer to pay for a reusable plastic bag, and 15% prefer to bring their own reusable shopping bag.


And in a refreshing twist on sustainable retail, most airport travelers (8 out of 10) would prefer to refill reusable water bottles in fountains rather than buy water in single-use plastic bottles. “Well over two-thirds of shoppers would be willing to purchase filtered mineralized water from a dispenser in a refillable bottle,” m1nd-set writes. “Millennials and Females both show a higher-than-average tendency for these more sustainable options.”


by Marisa Garcia