Steven Fallon
Tom Keighley

Bdaily talks airport retailing with Newcastle International store

Norway’s Airport Retail Group (ARG) has launched a new store in Newcaslte International Airport. Bdaily spoke to Steven Fallon, business development manager with Airport Fashion, to find out more about the company’s ambitions, and airport retailing in general.

Could you give a bit of background to ARG?

ARG is a Norwegian company that operate fashion and duty free outlets predominantly in airports across Scandinavia. ARG’s Airport Fashion in Newcastle International Airport is the company’s first UK venture. Airport Fashion stores stock high-quality branded fashion such as Hugo Boss, Lyle & Scott, Eton, Tommy Hilfiger and GANT. In addition to clothing and duty free outlets, Airport Retail Group also own two fashion labels – Lacrosse and Long Island. The two brands are exclusive to Airport Fashion so Newcastle International Airport’s store is the only UK outlet to offer these brands.

Why have they targeted Newcastle Airport?

Following extensive research into where to open its first UK store, ARG discovered that Newcastle has a diverse population and traveller profile which is reflective of the rest of the UK so it was felt to be a good place to start.

There was also a lack of high-end, multi-brand shopping at Newcastle International Airport so we were able to offer a niche that wasn’t already available. ARG also recognise that economically the North of England differs to the South and we wanted to ensure that it offered a competitive service all over the country.

The Newcastle store will allow the company to get to know the UK market, how business works, and get a feel for audience preferences. If this model is successful then we will cascade out Airport Fashion stores to other major UK airports.

What’s different about an airport retailer, in contrast with the high street?

The main difference between an airport retailer and a high street is the audience – in an airport you have a ‘captured’ audience who often have specific needs – travel, business, leisure etc – so we have to consider when and where they are going and their spending patterns to try to reach them with the right offerings and at the right time.

The average traveller comes through the airport just twice a year, which means we have to always get it right first time, as we might not get another chance for at least six months.

We also have to change our store layout to attract customers - it is not always in line with the season but instead is relevant to flight patterns and frequency. There is a lot to consider and achieve for the size of the shop, but it is a challenge we love.

Are there any differences in Scandinavian retailing that influence ARG’s approach?

There are several differences in the UK’s approach to retailing which differs from the Scandinavian. The main consideration being that Scandinavians tend to have more disposable income and are far less price conscious than the UK customer profile. We have had to take this into account, when opening the UK store so we have put a much larger emphasis on what brands we sell and what prices we sell them at.

Our suppliers come from all over the world and there is a lot to consider in terms of costing but we’ve learned a lot and are constantly improving to ensure the brands we stock represent the demand from our customers, the profile of ARG and the prices are competitive.

What will be the biggest challenge for the year ahead?

Our biggest challenge for the year ahead is to maintain the momentum and upward curve that we are on and to show our customers that we have listened to their feedback and have reacted accordingly. We are all passionate about the store, the vision of ARG and we remain absolutely confident that the Newcastle store is the foundation for the roll out of future stores into other UK airports.

How will the Newcastle store inform the roll-out plans for the rest of the UK?

Once we are satisfied that our brand collection, pricing structure and marketing campaigns are 100% effective here at Newcastle, we will then use this model as the starting blocks for any future stores around UK airports.

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