My Visit to Edinburgh… Airport

I recently visited Edinburgh Airport to explore the airside developments and experience the enhanced passenger journey. Upon arrival, I was met by Richard Townsend, the Retail & Property Director who kindly gave me a guided tour of the retail and F&B offering as well as an in-depth account on the asset strategy behind the developments.

Edinburgh Airport has a consistently growing success story and is the busiest airport in Scotland, and the 6th busiest in the entirety of the UK. In the last 2 years, passenger numbers have flown with an increase in excess of 950,000!

The success is no coincidence; the airport’s onsite team and Board of Directors have produced watertight strategies to drive customer experience, passenger journey and commercial income.

Just a few years ago, the airport had the “typical” travel brands including World Duty Free, WH Smith and Accessorize however, in recent years, this has been developed and changed dramatically which has had a significant impact on income throughout and, we suspect, passenger loyalty and repeat business.

When I landed, I made my way through Arrivals to the main airport entrance so that I could fully appreciate the passenger journey from start to finish. I headed towards Departures and went through security – which was a very unusual experience; the staff were engaging, the process was swift and the Security Officer even cracked a joke to my surprise! This process was far from others that I have become accustomed to and it is exciting to see that the customer is continuing to be a pivotal focus for operational process throughout the airport sector. I understand from industry news and conversations with clients within the sector that the sheer amount of investment into driving the passenger experience has become a real focal point in recent years for airport strategy. It makes sense – the happier the customer, the more money they will spend!

I was then greeted again by Richard who explained the developments taken place to date and the thought process behind it. World Duty Free has been moved to be part of the “compulsory” journey where passengers absolutely have to walk through to get to their gate from security. When leaving this particular unit, I was welcomed by a dynamic range of retailers and F&B operators that no doubt would satisfy any passenger from a range of demographics.

I understand the initial strategy was to move World Duty Free and replace this large unit with a duo of Superdrug and WH Smith so passengers can purchase the “necessary” travel buys with ease and speed including sun creams and an interesting book – or, if you’re like me – chocolate, make-up and a trashy magazine!

The remainder of the offering included high end brands like The Watch Collection, Jo Malone, Hugo Boss, Brora, Michael Kors and a champagne bar as well as high street brands and food outlets including Fat Face, Next, Eat, Yo Sushi and All Bar One.

Following the guided tour and insight into the ongoing developments and exciting aspirations ahead, I decided to walk around one of the retail outlets, Kurt Geiger, and accidentally made a purchase whilst waiting for my gate to open!

Safe to say I had a very engaging visit and it was genuinely beneficial to understand the retail and commercial operations of such a progressive airport from an employee’s perspective. Priceless!

Alex Rowbottom, Divisional Head of Destination Retail, Airports, BIDs & Facilities Management, Foundation Recruitment

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