Tight for time in Southampton

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Gavin Lipsith

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Southampton Airport has been my preferred departure point from the UK since I moved to Dorset two years ago, but I have never had a chance to review its commercial offer. That’s because I rarely spend more than half an hour there, so efficient is the passenger processing.

That efficiency makes it an ideal airport for passengers, but a difficult one for retailers. The main challenge is how to keep pace with the sudden influx of passengers thirty minutes before a flight. The Costa Coffee outlet on the mezzanine level in Departures always suffers from long queues; so long in fact that I often head back to the ground floor without my caffeine fix.

World Duty Free Group, on the other hand, makes the best of its small walk-through space (I reckon around 160sq m) and short dwell times. The store is well organised and well spaced and the retailer has exploited the concourse space to good effect, with an eye-catching promotion of Escada summer fragrances at the entrance, and one for One water (funding clean water pumps in African villages) at the exit.

There are some nice touches too. A ‘For Him’ beauty selection comprising one wall unit and a gondola is small enough to be unintimidating, and close to the tills to encourage impulse purchases (which I suspect are more important to sales of men’s beauty products than women’s). The sunglasses selection, occupying several metres on the left and back walls, is surprisingly wide for such a small store. And the Radley handbags display makes good use of space even in a tightly packed outlet.

On the concourse, flight information displays are everywhere, and with such a small Departures area passengers who get timely flight information are more likely to use the commercial services. World Duty Free Group has made good use of this potential backflow by prominently advertising multi-buy promotions and its Shop & Collect service.

Two niggles are the low ceiling in the store – a perennial problem for airport retailers – and the lack of brand personalisation, although that too may be a space issue. But in general it is good to see WDFG offering a service clearly targeting passengers who are tight on time. If only getting a coffee were as simple…

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