Sydney Airport: ticket to spend

It’s retail, but not as we know it.
The new Sydney International Airport retail precinct, officially completed in June, has turned Australian airport retailing on its head with a raft of stunning store fitouts and Australian and world firsts.

Not only does it house Australia’s first Victoria’s Secret store, the precinct includes the nation’s largest duty free department store – Nuance’s 3500sqm SYD. But more about that later.

It took three years of planning to take the old layout of Sydney International Airport to what it is today – a world class retail precinct, boasting leading Australian and global brands.

The airport services 32 million passengers each year, with numbers expected to more than double to 78.9 million over the next 20 years. The redevelopment, valued at $500 million, brings together what used to be two separate gate piers and has added 2000sqm of gross lettable space to the airport.

There are now 120 stores, including food and beverage offers.
Much of the airport’s retail was shifted from landside to airside to take advantage of increased dwell time once travellers have checked in and passed security and customs.

world of wine shop

Derek Larsen, GM retail at Sydney Airport Corporation, said the retail experience is essential to the airport.

“We’ve tried to deliver a global experience with an Australian flavour,” Larsen said.

“In essence, it was a ‘whole of airport change’, not singularly about retail, so it was about facilitation of operations as well as enhancing consumer and customer relations.

“We are different to 90 per cent of other airports in that what we have achieved is a great combination of global, international retail – but we have not lost the Australian touch.

 “if you go to Singapore or Hong Kong airports you will only see what I would term ‘global’ fashion and brands. When customers only have global brands they are at the mercy of foreign exchange rates.

“That is, they buy the product here, or in Hong Kong or New York, depending on what value your currency gives you. But when you buy an Australian product, it is a memento or a memory of that trip – something that reminds you of where you have been – and it is far more hedged against the foreign exchange than a global fashion icon.”

world of matt whisky

The 120 retailers include The Wiggles concept store, Victoria’s Secret, Swarovski, Danks Street Depot, Bambini Wine Room, Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bar, Adventure Australia, Tigerlily, RM Williams, Godiva, Purely Australian, Rodd & Gunn, Lonely Planet, Guardian Pharmacy, Declic, Dreamtime Spirit, Fendi, Coach, Mimco, Apple, Brumby’s, McDonald’s, Whizz, Seed and Emporio Armani.

A focus on childrenswear was also a factor, Larsen said.

“Previously, from teens down, you could never really find anything at an airport to buy – it was traditionally only perfume, cigarettes or liquor. We’ve really balanced the retailers and we’ve also added more men’s fashion than we had before, as well as food and beverage,” he said.

The food offer can be split into two separate categories, with a strong turnout of fast food retailers, as well as what Larsen calls Sydney Boulevard – a strip of high end food retailers and bars.

When putting together the retail mix, Larsen was brutal on store fits – which has resulted in some of the best in the world being found at Sydney Airport.

Giorgio Armani has called the Sydney Airport store Armani’s best ever at an airport, while Swarovski has brought its brand new in-store ‘look’ launched in Tokyo’s Ginza district.

The most talked about store, however, is Nuance’s massive SYD Duty Free store, which at 3500sqm (excluding the 500sqm walkway through the centre of the store) is the Southern Hemisphere’s largest duty free store.

The jewel in the precinct’s crown, the store is set out in categories, including five ‘worlds’ – World of Time, World of Fragrance, World of Chocolate, World of Malt Whisky and World of Wine.

Other store highlights include a cocktail bar and Harley Davidson pop up shop.

Brands with concessions within the unique store are Jo Malone, Bobbi Brown, Kiehls, Apple, Sony, Kenneth Cole, Diesel, Lacoste, DKNY, Ferragamo, Tag Heuer and many more.

David Odgers, director of SYD Airport Tax & Duty Free, said the idea behind the store was to create an experience that was different to the traditional duty free experience, but without the bright, shiny, white, ‘pharmacy feel’.

victoria secret

“We wanted to make it theatrical and experiential. Most airports now chop up their products into different categories. We’ve got all those categories under one roof, which gives us the opportunity to merchandise in a more engaging way and to have more interactivity in the store,” Odgers said.

Sydney Airport retail precinct highlights:

*First Apple shop (not Apple Store) in an airport in the world.
*Australia’s first Victoria’s Secret.
*The only company owned Armani store in an airport in the world (all others are concessions).
*First Wiggles concept store in the world.
*First Lonely Planet store in the world.
*Largest McDonald’s in an airport in the world.
*Largest duty free store in the southern hemisphere – SYD Duty Free.

“Making the brands work together was at the heart of the store design process. We’ve tried to give each category, and to some extent each brand, its own personality, but still make it feel like one store.

“There were a lot more challenges around that, and the space is not just a simple box – it’s a more interesting space.”

Nuance originally started out with its own idea of how the concept should come together, before consulting with its vendors to get their own input and ideas.

“From a merchandising point of view we gave some categories the term ‘world of’, which is more how we merchandise to make the selection process easier for the customer.

“The feedback from customers has been very positive and it’s made the shopping experience more enjoyable,” said Odgers.

In addition to the ‘world of’ categories, the mixology bar hosts a new theme periodically, allowing browsers to sample cocktails mixed using promotional spirits.


For concessions, each brand was given its own space and a set of parameters to work within, so the store maintained a degree of continuity.

“The whole back wall of beauty, for example, has LED lighting going through laser cut dye bond that frames each of the boutiques along the back wall,” Odgers explained.

“So while each boutique is quite different, they had a set of rules for their space and the backlighting helps pull it all together.

“It is unusual in other large airports around the world to have all duty free together on a department store basis, which makes the store a bit of an outlier when it comes to the rest of the world, and also because of its scale and its scope.”

Odgers said Nuance was pleased with how travellers had embraced the concept.

“We’re pleased with the adjacencies of categories and how we’ve laid it out.

“We thought people would just shop one category, and that has not been the case. Because it is such an appealing space, a lot of customers enjoy meandering through and shopping the whole selection on offer, so it’s worked well.”

The SYD store, like the rest of the retail precinct, was built while the airport remained operational. While the SYD store was 18 months in planning and design, the physical build took 16 weeks.

A temporary store was set up throughout the building process and the new store was reopened just six hours after the temporary store was closed.

Larsen said rebuilding while the airport was still in use had been one of the most difficult parts of the redevelopment.

“We did it during a global financial crisis and in an operational environment.

“This was not a greenfields site. There was an enormous amount of planning to make it happen,” he said.

SYD’S Worlds of…

World of  Whisky
A malt whisky flavour map is used by SYD Duty Free to categorise its range of 62 malt whisky products.
For the first time, malt whiskies have been rated by flavour rather than region of origin. The method is designed to make selection easier and allow shoppers to choose new varieties.
Categories include light and floral, fruity and spicy, rich and rounded and full bodied and smoky.
World of Whisky also provides samples and exclusive lines such as Johnnie Walker’s Double Black.

World of Wine
Wines sold at SYD Duty Free come with a map of the wine’s region of origin, tasting notes and educational information about each wine’s grapes and region.
It took Australian Master of Wine, Phil Reedman, 18 months to put together extensive tasting notes for the more than 200 fine wines available within World of Wine.
Wines are sourced from Australian and New Zealand cellar doors.

World of  Time arcade
The Masters of Time display gives international travellers access to luxury timepieces, including Cartier, Breitling, Bulgari and Girard Perregaux.
Each watch brand is exhibited in a separate display case.
Tag Heuer’s concession store is located at the entrance to World of Time, stocking timepieces as well as Tag Heuer accessories, sunglasses, apparel and mobile phones, some encrusted with diamonds.

World of Fragrance
The highlight of the World of Fragrance is perfume expert Michael Edwards’ touch screen kiosk.
Edwards is considered world wide to be the the only impartial, independent fragrance authority in the world, and his kiosk allows travellers to find their favourite perfume or discover a new fragrance by referencing other similar fragrances.
Scents – both male and female – are divided into four families: floral and feminine, oriental and sensual, woody and confident, and fresh and clean. Customers work through a selection of prompts onscreen, before trying the fragrance instore.

World of Chocolate
World of Chocolate is home to brands including Neuhause, Lindt, Valrhona (exclusive to Australia), Butlers Chocolates and Patons, all denoted by their countries of origin.
Shoppers can sample chocolates before they purchase, as well as learn about chocolate ingredients, percentage of cocoa and origins. Tasting descriptions accompany each product.

This feature first appeared in Inside Retailing Magazine. Click here to subscribe. 


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