Airports have long been synonymous with luxury retail outlets but now a growing number of brands are choosing to showcase their wares in a more temporary, and eye-catching, way – via pop-ups.
From the giant Tiffany box in New York’s John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport to Bulgari’s retail showcase in Helsinki Airport, these pop-ups are designed to draw in affluent leisure and business travelers who may not usually have the time or opportunity to experience a particular brand’s products first-hand.
“Airport retail today looks nothing like the souvenir shops and fast food stands that dotted terminals in the 1990’s, before tighter security measures required passengers to spend more time on the air side of security,” says Michael Hirschfeld, co-lead of JLL’s National Retail Tenant Services Group. “Shopping has always been a big part of the travel experience, and now retailers and food and beverage companies alike are finding ways to capitalize on the captive audience waiting for their flights.”
Getting a taste of the finer things in life
From whiskey tastings and fragrance samples to virtual reality demos, travelers strolling through airports today can find a wide range of opportunities to engage with brands. For shoppers, experience-focused pop-up shops offer the opportunity to test new products in a fun, leisurely way, often without a hard sell.
“What matters is that consumers walk away with a positive impression of the brand, so they’ll be more likely to make a purchase in the future,” said Hirschfeld. “Employees bring the experience to life in these new formats. The people staffing airport pop-ups are very skilled at reading body language of passersby to determine who is likely to stop, and reaching out to engage them.”
For brands, airport pop-ups are increasingly been seen as an ideal venue to introduce new products and brand extensions. And they also come with another big advantage; as airports offer the unique option of duty-free shop, consumers are often swayed by the prospect of purchasing a product for less than the price they’d pay on the high street yet there’s no danger of the discounted price damaging the luxury brand image. If anything, the airport location adds kudos as it’s seen as a more exclusive environment, says Hirschfeld.
The makings of a successful pop-up
Amid the bustle of travelers rushing to their gate or navigating their way to baggage claim, retailers must work harder to stand out in the crowd. Pop-ups are quite literally doing just that by favoring kiosks and installations that interrupt the flow of traffic with unique, eye-catching environments.
A new multi-brand pop-up from L’Oréal Travel Retail in Qatar’s Hamad International Airport offers a prime example. Designed to mimic a luxury hotel, the experiential shop showcases high-end collections from Giorgio Armani, Lancôme, Yves Saint Laurent, Ralph Lauren and Maison Margiela. Meanwhile, FAO Schwartz attracted attention from a younger travel set when it positioned a giant teddy bear outside its pop-up in Terminal 4 of JFK International Airport during last year’s holiday season.
Experience-driven pop-ups in particular are likely to remain a core strategy for new launching new products and building brands, said Hirschfeld. “Retailers have been experimenting with pop-ups for several years, and one thing is clear: pop-ups function best as a marketing vehicle.”
He believes that pop-up shops will continue to be a firm fixture in retailers’ location strategies for the foreseeable future. “Done well, they can be a cost-effective choice for not just reaching new customers within the target audience but really engaging with them so they understand the brand’s values as well as its products.”
And airports are just the beginning. “Expect to see more pop-ups at train stations and other transportation centers—any place where crowds of people congregate,” Hirschfeld concludes.