HMSHost gets into stock management with NASCAR

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HMSHost is best known internationally for its food & beverage business. But it’s also a pretty adept airport retailer in its stronghold US market.

On Friday the Autogrill-owned company celebrated the Grand Opening of its latest innovative store concept – and it’s one that we think will do really well.

The retailer has tied up with the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing Inc – more famously known as NASCAR – opening a 700sq ft store at Charlotte Douglas International Airport’s Main Terminal.

It’s the first collaboration between the two groups but it may not be the last. NASCAR is big, big business in the States so why not bring a touch of it to travel retail?

Consider this: NASCAR is the number one spectator sport in car-crazy America. Remarkably, it hosts 17 of the top 20-attended sporting events in the country each year. And over 75 million brand-loyal – many, in fact, brand-obsessed – followers purchase an estimated US$2 billion worth of licensed products annually.

As the pictures show, the Charlotte Douglas store is instantly recognisable to travelling stock car fans, thanks to its strong signage and graphics, as well as bright window displays and impactful shop entrance.

Travellers will find the most popular NASCAR licensed merchandise, including 60th anniversary items.


Charlotte, in North Carolina, has been chosen as the site of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, due for completion in 2010. That’s going to bring many more fans through Charlotte Douglas International and you can bet that many of them will now be stopping to spend. “We expect the NASCAR shop to become a destination for fans of the sport,” said HMSHost Senior Vice President Business Development Pat Banducci.

The NASCAR store is a prime example of destination merchandise – one of the most important concepts in airport retailing and yet consistently one of the most ignored or poorly executed.

Sport can be a prime example of the notion of ‘Sense of Place’ that The Moodie Report has championed so much in recent years. Think of the hugely successful adidas All Blacks store at Auckland Airport, which dramatically transformed sales of All Blacks-related items at the New Zealand gateway after it opened (admittedly there was a bit of a slump last October…)

The sport doesn’t have to be localised either – the pioneering FIFA store at Singapore Changi Airport’s new Terminal 3 seems set to be a big success.

But the concept has to be done well. I can think of many airports where a few token football shirts are crowded into the corner of a generic fashion or duty free shop. The pricing is often over the top and the range limited. And frequently there’s no effort to tap into the lucrative children’s market for such merchandise. 

There is real potential in sports-related products but only where the concept has been fully thought through, where the brand identity is strong, the fan base big, and – as always – the store execution top class. HMSHost seems to have achieved that balance in Charlotte.