Low-key beginning belies ambitions for Shanghai T2

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shanghai-t2-for-blog.jpgThe low-key opening of Shanghai Pudong Airport Terminal 2 late last month belies the huge ambitions that Shanghai Airport Authority (SAA) has for the terminal, the airport and for Shanghai as an aviation hub.

Speaking at the opening of last week’s Trinity Forum, SAA President Wu Nianzu said: “We are making every effort to develop Shanghai as an aviation hub. We are promoting the entire business, including commercial. We have introduced top-class brands to make this a favourable environment for shopping.”

Yet in contrast to the fanfare that we witnessed at the openings of Singapore Changi T3, Beijing T3 and yes, Heathrow T5 lately, T2 at Shanghai is coming to life not with a big bang, but with a series of small steps.

For a start, T2 still houses relatively few airlines, as others await the switch to the new facility. That may not be great news for the retailers that populate the vast spaces in the terminal, but it does allow systems to be perfected under relatively little pressure, and it also allows tenants to test and improve the mix.

And that mix is diverse. Sunrise Duty Free’s main stores – mirrored on each side of the central security areas – are dominated by the traditional categories of tobacco (still a mainstay of the business here, and positioned right at the store entrances), liquor and beauty.

There’s an emphasis on high-end fashion too, through brands such as Shanghai Tang, Celine and Bally. And there’s a pretty good destination merchandise offer too, with a refreshingly high quality of product and a decent range.

In short it’s a good, solid offer, though we think it could be improved further. The low ceilings and, in places, patchy lighting, don’t entice the casual visitor towards the stores.

Yet once you reach those stores, the staff and interested and attentive – and with not many passengers around, are doing their utmost to compete and capture those that are using the terminal.

Shanghai T2 isn’t what you’d call unique. It carries echoes of other Asian airports, and in particular there are real similarities to Changi’s first two terminals in the style and layout of the commercial mix, right down to the mezzanine level F&B offer.

But through a solid, traditional offer rounded out by a neat blend of high-class fashion and souvenirs, and the effervescence of the people working there, T2 can yet become a fine travel retail location.

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