By Darrell Smith - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PST Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Now on approach to Sacramento: a new outlet for Brooks Brothers, the longtime purveyor of buttoned-down style. But this new store won't be landing in any stylish downtown display window or in any suburban mall. Instead, the purveyor of fine suits and business attire will be opening in ... the airport.
Specifically, Terminal A at Sacramento International Airport.
It's part of the new frontier in retailing, as increasing numbers of upscale and big-name retailers -- from Swarovski to Harley-Davidson -- have set up shop in airport terminals.
Today, the nation's airports are looking decidedly more Rodeo Drive than runway: oxygen bars at Las Vegas' McCarran International, massage-and-facial spas at Pittsburgh International, Gucci and Sephora at San Francisco International.
It's a far cry from the airports of old, said Ann Ferraguto, principal of AirProjects Inc., an Alexandria, Va.-based airport concessions consulting group.
"You typically had a couple of cafeterias, news and gift stores and that was about it," Ferraguto said. "Now, there's specialty retail, different types of food. ... (It's) quadrupled from 20 years ago."
What's driving the upgrade? Retailing analyst George Whalin says it's the resurgence in travel as well as the captive market of affluent frequent fliers, whether they're headed for business or pleasure.
"You have captive consumers and things are beginning to settle down from 9/11," said Whalin, noting that airline passenger travel is up from nearly five years ago. And those passengers are not reluctant to spend money while idling in the airport. "There's the convenience of it all, particularly for hard-core travelers, (who are) often fairly affluent folks."
It's also due to what's called "dwell time" in the airport industry, those hours after the security check, before the flight or between connections when a passenger's options are to wait, work or spend time at the airport bar. And with increased airport security measures, passengers have to arrive earlier and wait longer.
"What airports are finding is that passengers ... have a lot more time on their hands," said Bobbi Passavanti, marketing director for The Paradies Shops, an Atlanta-based airport concession company that operates here and nationwide. "(Passengers) work or they wait. What other opportunities do they have? Shopping."
Pittsburgh International was an industry pioneer when it opened its so-called Airmall 15 years ago. Today, Pittsburgh has more than 100 shops and restaurants, including Johnston & Murphy men's clothiers, Nine West women's shoes and Victoria's Secret lingerie.
But lots of airports are now jumping aboard. And revenue is the reason, said AirProject's Ferraguto.
Terminal revenue -- retail, food and beverage -- made up just 19 percent of airports' non-aeronautical revenue in 2005, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Parking and auto rentals were the top two revenue generators in that non-airline category.
Although precise numbers were unavailable, several recent airport insiders have noted the potential for growing airport revenues from non-aeronautical sources.
"(Airport) management, developers, concessions, they're realizing that a lot of money is being left on the table." Ferraguto said.
At airport hubs like Denver and Detroit, airport officials are betting that people want more shopping opportunities.
Denver International Airport is opening The Landings at DIA, a planned 500-acre village that will feature a 150- to 200-room hotel and about 60,000 square feet of retail space for airport passengers and employees alike. In Detroit, airport officials plan to open a 5-acre, $5 million shopping center that includes restaurants, a car wash and dry cleaner.
After getting the nod from the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors earlier this month, Paradies plans to open the 1,000-square-foot Brooks Brothers outlet in late summer or early fall, said airport spokeswoman Karen Doron. Paradies also plans to add another Travelmart convenience store in Terminal B at the same time.
The company, which operates 500 retail outlets and newsstands in 63 U.S. and Canadian airports, will spend an estimated $730,000 to renovate the two new stores and spruce up its existing specialty shops.
Among the other upscale entrants to Sacramento's airport was the recent arrival of Vino Volo, a wine tasting bar and store that's also been uncorked by Taste Inc. in Seattle and Washington, D.C. airports.
Paradies, which operates 16 other airport-based Brooks Brothers outlets through an exclusive agreement with the New York-based clothier, believes the time is right for a Brooks Brothers in Sacramento's airport. "The traffic's increasing, the demographics are changing," said Passavanti, who grew up in the Sacramento area. "It's creating some nice competition. Sacramento has really transformed."
The airport store is a separate entity from the Brooks Brothers outlet in Folsom.
At Sacramento International, where more than 10 million passengers go through the gates annually, concessionaires took in nearly $10.5 million in gross retail sales during fiscal year 2005-2006, according to the Sacramento County Airport System.
Brooks Brothers' arrival at Sacramento's airport appeals to David Topp."I'm always in favor of more Brooks Brothers," said Topp, who said he works in government affairs. He said it always seems odd to find well-known brands inside an airport, but it makes sense when "people spend so much time traveling."
In an effort to appeal to airport shoppers, retailers are going for brighter, more open designs; restaurants with an emphasis on local, regional cuisines and higher quality goods, said Charles Chambers, senior vice president for security and economic affairs at Airports Council International-North America, a Washington, D.C.-based advocate for large airports.
"We're seeing more high-end (airport stores)," Chambers said. "The demographics of the traveler have changed a lot. The business traveler is interested in quality."
Just interesting that some high-class retail is in the airport and not even in the metropolitan area [except Folsom]. I wish more stores like this could come to downtown!