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Report outlines new reality for airport retail post COVID-19


According to a survey by Swiss research agency, M1nd-set, over 60% of international travellers will fly again within the first three months of COVID-19 travel restrictions being lifted.

The report, based on feedback from 1,500 consumers in the first half of April, aims to find out how passengers have been affected by COVID-19 and when they expect to travel again after travel restrictions have been lifted.

The research also reveals how travellers will change their behaviour with regards to duty free shopping and for those who say they will enter the shops, how the Coronavirus pandemic will affect their interaction with staff, how touching, testing and tasting products in the shops will differ, what changes they may make to the category mix they purchase and spend levels among other aspects.

According to the report, more than one in five travellers say they would travel again immediately after travel restrictions have been lifted. Just less than one fifth say they will travel again within the first six months, 14% after six months and 6% after 12 months.

Travel uptake will inevitably take time. A third of travellers say they would either travel less or not at all for business in the six months after travel bans are lifted.

The main reasons for this, according to the consumer panel are budget cuts within companies and fewer international trips being required due to the economic slowdown.

The number of online meetings will also increase hence requiring less physical presence and international flights. One in five travellers fear a lack of flight connections will prevent them from reaching their destinations as easily as before and a similar percentage expressed concern about flight cancellations and disruptions.

Long road to recovery

Some 40% of travellers interviewed by m1nd-set say they will visit the airport shops when at the airport. Around 60% say they will not visit the shops again, a quarter of these because of the Coronavirus while the other 75% say they would not visit the shops, but not because of the virus.

The report reveals which categories will be most impacted by the drop in footfall due to the virus, namely Perfumes, Alcohol and Skincare. Just over half however – 52% of shop visitors – say they would not purchase at all.

A significant majority of passengers (62%) say they will avoid interaction with sales staff when in the shops and over half will avoid touching or tasting products. The report also reveals which types of shop and commercial outlets travellers will be more inclined to visit or avoid, as well as how they will spend their time while in the airport and their behavioural changes when on board the flight.

M1nd-set owner and CEO, Dr Peter Mohn, commented: “Although we see from the research that online duty free services are not top-of-mind among travellers today, retailers and other airport commercial partners will need to review their digital strategy and redouble efforts to offer a more robust omni-channel presence.

“This will be necessary both to retain loyal shoppers as well as to convert non-shopper travellers. Stakeholders will need to study more proactively how they can exploit the popularity of travel retail exclusives and other duty free special offers.

“This will be particularly important to convert travellers who are reluctant to enter the shops so they are either reassured by the safe environment within the shop or so they can learn how they are able to shop remotely and pick up either at the gate, or on their return trip in the arrival hall.”

As Mohn goes on to explain, while the road to recovery will be long, there are ways in which airports, airlines, cruise and ferry companies and their commercial partners can kickstart a more rapid revival.

“A focus on safety and well-being of passengers and staff will be essential in the post-COVID-19 recovery period. Stores will need to be increasingly digitalised with contact-less payments, including both tap-and-go credit cards and mobile phone payments.

“Cash payments will be perceived by many as a health risk. We see that sustainable goods and health and well-being products and services are likely to be more sought after when travel retail shopping resumes.

“The health and safety of all parties must be the number one consideration in these deliberations if travel retail sales are to recover.”

He adds: “All stakeholders need to be studying their own passenger profiles and shopper segments to understand what their preferences and behaviour will be in this new normal, so the rules of retail can be rewritten with greater knowledge and authority.”

This initial COVID-19 special report is the first in a series m1nd-set will be conducting in the coming weeks and months to provide clients and partners with up-to-date insights on how attitudes towards travelling and shopping at airports will evolve in the foreseeable future.

1 Comment

  1. Felix Ehikhuemen 29th April 2020

    I would like to know if you have any study on the impact of Covid 19 on other commercial activities like advertising, in particular, the willingness of advertisers/brands to return after the lifting of the travel ban


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