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Sangster airport operator wants more snazzy shops

Published:Friday | September 2, 2016 | 12:00 AMSteven Jackson
A section of the food court at Sangster International Airport. MBJ Airport is aiming for more trendy shops to drive commercial sales at Sangster.

A dozen of the 63 retail stores operating at the Sangster International Airport will see their licence come up for renewal next year, at a time when MBJ Airports Limited, which operates the airport, wants some of these stores to modernise their offering to drive sales.

Some of the existing stores might not make the cut, with the space offered to more trendy or locally innovative stores.

"Starting early next year, we are looking at a master redevelopment of the commercial area, which will include a wider variety of offerings. T-shirts and souvenirs dominate our retail stores at the moment and the plan is to change that to bring a more local flavour to bring in more Jamaican-made products," said Sitara English-Byfield, chief commercial officer for MBJ Airport Limited.

"We are going to streamline merchandising and the way it is displayed in stores, so that passengers will feel comfortable to browse and therefore shop more," she said at a forum hosted by MBJ Airport on Tuesday on development plans for the Sangster airport.

Licence conditions

MBJ Airport will use the licence renewal talks to stipulate conditions, for instance, selling less overseas-made T-shirts, while seeking out more concept stores and quality local products for its shopping terminal. It's all in an effort to get passengers to shop more in transit.

The airport company argues that online shopping offers some of these overseas-made products which, at times, obviates the need to shop in the Sangster airport; and that offering more concept stores in which experiences are tied to products should drive sales.

English-Byfield gave the example of setting up a short sprint to sell shoes or a hologram of a celebrity tied into selling other products.

"We will have more concept stores because these stores are dubbed the greatest competition to online shopping. Because, if you can get it online, why bother to go in the store? So you go into the store because there is that experience of shopping, and we want to create that energy. We intend to have more walk-through concepts - same number of operators but more walk-through - rather than individual stores," she said.

The airport offers "60,000 square feet" of retail area in the terminal building that offers duty-free, food and beverage and other shops. The shift towards trendy shops will also be paired with a cosmetic redesign of the shopping terminal - all part of the airport master plan which includes the runway extension, expansion and modernisation of the terminal, expansion of airplane parking and expansion of car parking.