By Daniel Hunter

Footfall penetration in UK airport shops is pathetically low, with brands and retailers squandering opportunities and failing to excite travellers, according to one of Europe's leading shopping behaviour specialists.

More than 200 million travellers pass through UK airports each year, often walking through shopping areas on their way to their gate. But of these, as many as 195 million won't make any airport purchases, according to leading shopping researchers SBXL.

And this is because brand marketing and promotion in airports is largely ineffective, with retailers failing to understand airport shopper psychology, according to SBXL managing director Phillip Adcock.

"We have found that current marketing and promotional practices in airport and duty-free shopping areas simply aren't working. This is because brands and retailers don't have any good quality shopper research information relating specifically to the travel retail channel," he said.

"Footfall penetration in the 22 airports in the UK represents a tiny percentage of people travelling through those airports, so the opportunities are enormous. Almost 20 per cent of UK fragrance sales and 25 per cent of all malt whisky sales are generated in airport shops, so that gives you a feel for the size of the potential market for other products

"The issue is that the mindset of someone travelling through an airport is completely different to that of a supermarket shopper, so the same marketing approaches will not work. To achieve a higher footfall penetration, brands and retailers need to identify what the barriers are to purchase, and then eliminate those barriers.

"Building better emotional connections between airport shoppers and the products available is vital, so that a more pleasurable shopping experience is created. There is a need for a fuller understanding of airport shoppers' decision-making processes if brands are to give themselves a platform for higher sales achievement.

"The global travel retail industry is quite simply enormous, and offers a plethora of sales opportunities to the hundreds of brands that exhibit their products in duty-free and airport shops worldwide."

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