Geneva Airport turns on the style

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

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Wow, what a change at Geneva Airport since I was last through there a few years back.

I passed through the Swiss gateway last week on a brief business visit and was impressed by the commercial transformation, particularly in duty free, watches and specialist retail.

Under the leadership of Commercial Director Pierre Germain, the airport revamped its commercial offer in late 2009 amid a wider terminal modernisation, including a 650sq m duty & tax free store run by The Nuance Group and a new Food Court operated by SSP.

It appears to be paying off. Not only did commercial revenues rise sharply last year but the whole passenger experience is notably enhanced.

There’s an impressive emphasis on Swissness – watches, chocolates and cheese, of course, but also wines, music boxes and strong local brands such as Victorinox and Caran d’Ache.

The traveller is, in fact, spoiled for choice with Swiss watches. Tech-Airport Holding, a division of Swatch Group, runs a beautifully presented and nicely named store called Hour Passion (introduced in late 2009 to inject some competition into the airport’s watches environment) as well as an Omega boutique. Plus there’s the long-established, less imaginatively named, Air Watch Center.

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The Nuance Group’s main duty & tax free store is very good in parts, notably its tobacco offer (right at the main entrance), walk-in cigar humidor, temperature-controlled fine wines cabinet and strong back wall of beauty brands.

Space constraints mean its occasionally a little too ‘busy’ and I’m not so sure about the generic gondolas across a number of categories that are utilitarian at best. But at least the sight lines across what could otherwise feel a cramped store given the number of categories and skus are excellent.

 The store offers an extensive range of products from the perfumes and cosmetics, wine, liquor and confectionery categories under Nuance’s successful ‘World of…’ concept. There’s something here for most tastes and budgets.

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There’s also a diverse, often upscale fashion and accessories offer, ranging from the Nuance/CDG Participations-run multi-brand store to a series of specialist boutiques.

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Some of the stores work better than others, notably Schweizer Heimatwerk (below), which has some exquisite hand-crafted, super-premium music boxes and other quirky local gifts. Swiss Chocolate (above) fails to excite and it should.

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The airport’s best store, though, in my view (both in terms of range and quality of merchandising) is Caviar House & Prunier, which makes great use of shallow space and offers a lovely mix of caviar, Swiss cheese, other foodstuffs, fine wines and spirits.

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My shopping tour complete, I just had time to indulge in a glass of good Swiss white wine (Aigle les Murailles from Henri Badoux) at CHF9.50 (US$11) at the (separate) Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bar, together with some delicious Balik Gravlax (CHF40/US$46.28), pricey but worth every Franc. What a great concept this is.

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Unrushed (there were plenty of flight information display screens), I departed Geneva Airport generally satisfied with the experience. Queues were short, security efficient, and the commercial offer highly appropriate to the location.  The staff  were friendly and able (especially at Schweizer Heimatwerk and the Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bar) and an assistant called M Santchi properly checked if London was my final destination when selling me the Swiss wine.

And Geneva’s retail offer is set to get even better next month, when Arrivals shopping (below) begins. If the airport gets that right too, then airports serving Switzerland-bound passengers better get their Departures duty free right.  

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  • Hi Martin

    What did you think about the advertising at Geneva? Like you, I haven’t had the chance to visit for a few years – probably about 4 – and I wonder whether they have also optimised the offer? Geneva’s audience is about as good/valuable as it gets!

    Best regards

    Philip Weake