London Heathrow is the third-busiest airport in the world, moving close to 70 million people down its two runways each year. It can feel a bit cramped there and anybody who has walked its floors might tell you that all 70 million of those folks were in the place the day they were there.
The government has threatened to scuttle a proposed third runway, which has Heathrow operator BAA threatening to sue as it's eager to expand capacity. And from the "you can't please all the people all the time" dept., one group of Brits would love the 83-year-old airport to be leveled and converted into landscaped gardens, a residential area, and a university. Yet customer surveys indicate that over 70% of passengers at the airport rate their experience as 'Excellent' or 'Very Good.'
As it looks to become more efficient and truly "make every journey better" in order to bump those customer survey results even higher, Heathrow's retail partners and shoppers are certainly happy. According to an airport spokesperson, “Heathrow has the highest retail sales of any airport in the world ahead of Incheon airport in South Korea in second place.”
In 2011, retailers at Heathrow pulled in a record $2.4 billion, driven by sales of luxury goods (its high-end brands include Chanel, Hermes, Prada and Miu Miu), helping the airport win the "world's best airport shopping" title for the 3rd year in a row.
The opening of Terminal 5 in 2008 saw a significant step change in airport retailing, not only just for Heathrow but for airport shopping worldwide, with the introduction of outlets not normally considered standard fare for airport retailing such as "Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food" and Tiffany & Co.
Retailers are now bidding to be part of the commercial concessions at the new terminal, Terminal 2, which was slated to open in time for this summer’s Olympic Games but has been pushed back to late 2013 or early 2014. Terminal 2 just completed its large works construction and is now moving into the fit out phase before testing.
The terminal's opening in 2014 "presents the next opportunity for us to revolutionise airport shopping and respond to our passengers' demand for luxury brands as well as increased participation from BRIC nations," according to a spokesperson. The first round of retail partners, beginning with food and beverage brands, will be announced later this year.
Brands interested in being part of Terminal 2 are being asked to submit their application and incorporate Heathrow’s six retail directions, namely:
· New luxury – personalised experiences, not material possession
· Social Local Mobile – targeting customers on the go
· Hybridisation – one space, many moods, inspired by innovative collaborations
· Customisation – focus on making entertainment shopable
· Transient – customise experiences to respect our international audience
· Multi channel – think digital, deliver analogue
In the meantime, there's that influx of tourists expected to pour into the country this summer to attend the Games, so the airport aims to maintain friendly relations with Brits and visitors alike. Recently, it’s gotten a bit of bad press for deciding to downsize 15% of its workforce and install electronic self-service check-in for European passport holders, in addition to concerns about the condition of short-term holding facilities. Such trouble has led to the airport earning such dismaying headlines as the Guardian's “How Heathrow Became Hell on Earth.”
The airport at least received some good press during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations for painting a Union Jack with the Queen’s head at its center next to one of its runways. Now the host airport for the 2012 Games is eager to welcome this summer's Olympic Games visitors, including training 1,000 volunteers, stepping up security and offering premium services (bronze, silver and gold packages) — although of course BAA would love all Heathrow visitors to feel like the airport is a winning experience.
[top image via cycreation / Shutterstock.com]