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Interesting Article About Airport Food/Retail

Mon Aug 18, 2003 12:56 am

The Columbus Dispatch today printed an article in the Business section concerning the way new security measures have impacted food and retail stores at the airport. It's actually pretty interesting, stating that the trend is that outlets past security have faired better than places before security. The article can be found with all associated graphs and charts at:

Silver lining in the cloud
New security measures have helped airport stores record sales gains as travelers shop to fill idle time
Sunday, August 17, 2003
Mark Niquette

Ben Burns’ flight from Port Columbus to Dallas last week wasn’t taking off for an hour, so he headed to the airport’s PGA Tour store to browse though the selection of golf clubs and polo shirts.

The 58-year-old Gahanna resident recently bought Titleist clubs on sale at the shop, and because he flies every other week on business, he also buys his books at Port Columbus.

"I’ve got time to kill," he said.

Experts say Burns and other travelers are spending more time at airports since the security changes made after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, helping boost overall concessions at Port Columbus since 2000 — despite the fact that traffic fell after the attack and hasn’t returned to 2000 levels.

Food and retail sales at Port Columbus increased to $19.4 million last year from $17.6 million in 2001 and $17.2 million in 2000. That placed the airport 33 rd among the nation’s top 100 airports last year based on revenues per passenger, according to Airport Revenue News.

"That’s a strong number, given the fact it’s not a huge airport," editor Pauline Armbrust said.

But airport shops located after the checkpoints generally are doing better than those before security, and although sales at Port Columbus weathered the terrorist attack, business slumped at some shops after America West eliminated its Columbus hub this year.

Still, airport officials are confident they’ll replace lost air service over time, and many airport vendors expect business eventually will stabilize — especially as the economy improves.

The terrorist attack changed the dynamics of airport retailing by bringing new security screening procedures and long lines at times, said Lou Bottino of Atlanta-based Paradies Shops, which operates the PGA Tour Shop and most of the retail stores at Port Columbus.

Passengers were told to arrive at the airport two hours or more before their flights, giving them more "dwell time" to shop, Bottino said.

Some food vendors said they also have benefited from the fact that most airlines stopped offering food on flights since the attack.

But retailers located before the security checkpoints generally did worse than those on the other side because passengers became conditioned to rush through security and stay there.

"Going back through security today (to shop or eat) is not a fun thing to do," said Kathy Locke, 49, of Columbus. She said at most she’ll grab a cup of coffee on her way to her gate.

At Port Columbus, the food court and most retail shops are located before the security checkpoints, and business has fallen at some of them since 2000 despite the overall increase in airport sales.

There are exceptions to that trend. The Max & Erma’s franchise in Gateway Plaza — before security — saw sales increase 15 percent last year and is one of the chain’s top-grossing franchises in the nation, for example.

Max & Erma’s at Port Columbus benefits from being the only sit-down restaurant before the checkpoints and from being a well-known Columbus chain, said Mike Wolf, general manager of Anton Airfood, which operates the franchise and most other restaurants at Port Columbus.

But the trend of retailers doing better after security was so pronounced that Cleveland Hopkins International Airport spent $1.2 million last year to move its security screening area so all restaurants and stores are past the checkpoints, spokeswoman Pat Smith said.

The move has boosted sales by as much as 53 percent at some businesses and by 10 percent overall, said John C. Mok, director of port control at Cleveland Hopkins.

Port Columbus has considered reconfiguring its terminal in a similar way but decided against it for now because of the cost, spokesman David Whitaker said.

The airport is looking for opportunities to create available retail space after security in areas that airlines are not using, such as placing shoe-shine stations in holding rooms airlines don’t need, Whitaker said.

Food and retail shops at Port Columbus rent space by paying a percentage of their monthly receipts to the Columbus Regional Airport Authority.

Port Columbus depends on income from its shops. Nearly 27 percent of all Port Columbus revenues came from the food and retail shops last year.

That’s why America West’s decision this year to eliminate 45 of its 49 daily departures from Port Columbus — and also cut 330 employees who often ate or shopped at the airport — has airport officials and vendors worried.

Delta, American, Southwest and other airlines have added some flights, and airport officials are courting Frontier, Jet-Blue and other carriers to add service.

In the meantime, receipts at Port Columbus restaurants combined dropped by 12.6 percent in May compared with the same month last year and by 15.4 percent in June.

Retail receipts are down only slightly compared with last year but have been helped significantly by sales of Ohio State University football merchandise related to the team’s national championship run, Bottino said.

"But if this is as bad as it’s going to get, we’ll be all right," he said.

One advantage that airport retailers have over conventional retailers is that air travelers tend to have disposable income and lead fast-paced lives, said Frank Badillo, senior retail economist at Retail Forward, a Columbus consulting company.

"It’s a chance to grab those people when they have time on their hands," he said.

Michael Taylor, senior director of travel services for J.D. Power & Associates predicts that airport retailing at Port Columbus and nationwide will continue to expand — as long as airports offer a variety of shops and selection of food.

"People are willing to spend money if they get what they want in the airport," he said. "If they’re going to be at the airport for two hours, they’ll want to be entertained. And part of that entertainment is shopping."


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