By Aimee Chanthadavong

The standard of Sydney’s international airport retail mix is going another step higher with new retail stores expected to be unveiled next year and in 2015.

Currently, newly created store spaces are marked by white wooden fixtures inside international terminal.  But Sydney Airport general manager retail Andrew Gardiner assures these will soon be home to some well-known international luxury brands, which he is currently in talks with.

“At the moment we have Georgia Armani and Bally but there’s still an opportunity to go one up,” he said.

“So we’re talking to some of the major international brands and we’re hopeful they’ll agree to come to the airport. It takes a little time but we’re really excited about the opportunity to bring a lot more class. It’s just something different, new and more variety.”

Approximately 30 million people travel through T1 Terminal annually, with 50 per cent being Australians and another 50 per cent being international. At the same time, another 60 million travel through T2 terminal and 95 per cent of them are Australians.

The top three customers of Sydney Airport are Australians followed by New Zealanders and the Chinese.  For this reason, Gardiner believes there’s a need to introduce more retail brands that will appeal to the high quality taste of its – growing number of – Chinese customers by introducing more luxury brands to the mix.

“So what we’re doing is trying to appeal the audience of Australia and of course it continues to change so it’s really important for us to continue to look at the mix of stock and stores we have here,” he said.

And Gardiner isn’t afraid to admit work needs to be done before Sydney Airport can be classified as the same calibre of other international airports like Dubai and Singapore, which are known for their retail offerings.

“I’ve just spent the last month travelling and as airports go we have a little bit of work to do,” he said.

“But actually really in comparison to others we’re not that bad. So it takes time and we’re really aware of that. We also have to look at our customer.

“Two years ago, when I first started, we started to offer free Wi-Fi so what that gave us a chance to ask people for their postal cost, gender and age. Then we run that information through our database so I can have a picture of where all my customers are from.

“In a recent survey with 18,000 of our Australian, New Zealand and Chinese customers we asked them what brand they’d like to see and then we go out and shop for those brands.

“My strategy for retail starts with the customer and ends with the customer.”

Without a doubt though like a majority of Australia’s retail landscape changing for the customer is a hard task, Gardiner said.

“I think a lot of Australian retailers really do understand the customers. The pressure is obviously on how we can continue to excite customers but it’s really hard,” he said.

“It’s easy to change things when they’re online but to change on department in a fixed store takes a lot of capital and effort. I appeal to The Australia public to continue to support retailers like Myers and David Jones are really institutions.”

Another issue Sydney Airport faces when it comes to introducing new retail is space.

“The dwell time at the airport is about 108 minutes so what we need to do is create an experience where people can feel comfortable,” Gardiner said.

“Often flying can be really confronting and people can feel quite anxious so we want to give them an environment that can settle them.

“Often when people think about retail therapy customers find it therapeutic so it’s about finding the right balance. This means looking at how we can utilise the space because there’s always something new in retail.”

In the meantime however Gardiner looks forward to the opening of a Penfold store in December while continuing to see the success of the Airport’s recently opened jewellery precinct, and more recently National Geographic and A Little Something. The food court in T2 Terminal will also be getting an upgrade next year. 

The trick Gardiner said is to look at the airport as one big department store.

“Bringing new opportunities to the airport is about realising there’s more to be done,” he said.
“It’s also recognising who are our customers are, what they want and what we’re missing when looking at the airport overall. On the flipside we have McDonald’s and then we also have Movida.”