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Travel retail catching up on e-commerce

Travel retail is popular with passengers not only in terms of providing a distraction from gazing at boards showing details about delayed flights. Sometimes there are good offers to be had and there are often products on-sale that are travel retail exclusives. The drinks industry, for example, will often provide special bottlings of spirits to travel retail outlets.

A review by Traveluxe, which focuses on high-end drink sales to the travel retail sector, the industry has been slow to adopt digital technology. For example, few retailers, until recently, have put the prices of their products on-line and it remains that no travel retailer at Brussels airport provides any online price details at all. With others areas that have embraced digital technology, some have gone to considerable lengths to engage with the modern consumer.

An example cited is the online retailer site Shop Changi, which covers the Singapore Changi retailers. The site is also available in app form, and the platform also gives out discount promotions to regular shoppers. A second example of a retail area embracing the e-commerce world is Heathrow airport, which has a dedicated travel retail website called boutique.heathrow.com, which is linked to the World Duty Free chain. The website allows travelers to reserve and collect products avoiding the risks of a desired item being frustratingly out of stock. On the other side of the Atlantic, Duty Free America has also recently launched an app. However, the U.S. duty free network has yet to provide on-line prices or a pre-ordering facility.

The Traveluxe review spots a business-to-business opportunity. For frequent flyers, most of whom will be business people, the idea of downloading different apps for every airport visited will soon become frustrating or the practice will fade out. If a number of retailers come together, operating across different airports, then a universal app (or a product aggregator) and one that is smart enough through location sensing to determine where in the world the passenger is, could work to the advantage of the travel retail sector overall.

Further developments with technology and digital transformation initiatives will help the airport sector overall given that the second largest source of income of every airport is travel retail. Its an airports interest, as much as the retail stores, to have lots of passenger spending activity for an airport leases floor space to retail companies based on revenue-dependent pricing.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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