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I’ve seen all but one (Cairo) of Aer Rianta International-Middle East’s (ARI-ME) airport retail offers, so I was expecting something pretty good when I arrived in Cyprus on Friday for this weekend’s opening of the new terminal in Larnaka.
I have always rated Bahrain Duty Free, for example, as one of the most sensible and consumer-friendly travel retail complexes; and parts of Beirut Duty Free are superb.
ARI-ME is a retailer that prides itself on knowing what sells to a particular airport’s passenger profile and then articulating and executing that offer in style. It’s not renowned as a flashy retailer but as a thorough and customer-centric one. Time and again it gets the basics right and works from there.
No wonder it has developed a remarkable pan-regional retail powerhouse over the past 18 years. ARI-ME’s history represents one of travel retail’s great stories and yet, perhaps because of the company’s understated approach, one that is relatively unsung.
All those traditional basics are in place in Larnaka. There’s a solid core category offer and the same sense of clean, clutter-free retailing that you get in, say Bahrain. But there’s something more here – something that arguably we haven’t seen from ARI (trading here in partnership with Cyprus Trading Corporation as CTC-ARI Airports) before.
It’s not flashiness – the offer is too substantial for that – but it is full of flair. Take me to a better specialist area than the superb uisege beatha ‘water of life’ malt whisky shop-in-shop (above) and you’ll have a very happy shopper on your hands. Show me a better execution of Kiehl’s (hats off to the brand) and I’ll be surprised.
Leave me in the Kypriaka destination merchandise area and I’ll be a content and better-educated man. Let me browse for a while in the Kelari wine cellar and I’ll be the world’s least-stressed traveller.
The new Larnaka Zenon International Airport is that sort of place. It offers a combination of surprises and old favourites for shoppers.
You’ll find the big international names here – including blockbuster brands such as La Mer and MAC – but you’ll also discover some special treats. To me – and I am not a retailer but a regular traveller who loves to shop on-airport – that is what an airport retail experience should be all about.
ARI-ME Managing Director John Sutcliffe was the man who coined the term ‘Sense of Place’ [originally at Bahrain Duty Free] in our industry. We’ve since picked it up and run with it, as have (gratifyingly) more and more airports and travel retailers.
It is such a fundamentally important concept in terms of what an airport represents to a city, region or country that we remain staggered that so few companies in our sector truly get it.
Next time you’re through Larnaka, you will be able to buy original pieces of sculpture at the airport, besides a more traditional range of ‘destination merchandise’ (a term I am rapidly going off, such is its association with a mediocre souvenir offer). You’ll be able to pick up some exquisite lace work, as well as your Toblerone, Chanel No 5, Johnnie Walker Black Label or Marlboro 200s.
It’s travel retail 21st century style and it’s laid down a template that many bigger airports could learn much from.
[The new airport represents a profound contrast from the crowded, dated facilities at the old terminal]