Lagardère Travel Retail has unveiled a significantly expanded Aelia Duty Free store at London City Airport (LCY), which the French company has elevated to the status of ‘flagship’ due to the landlord-retailer achievements in the space.
TRBusiness joined airport and retailer officials and other media today (2 November) for the grand launch of the newly refurbished store, which is situated in the main departure lounge.
At 420sq m, the unit is 45% larger than before (290sq m) but looks even bigger thanks to its positioning and design.
The width has been increased and the frontage brought forward to give it more depth, while the extended length makes it appear large and spacious.
London’s most central air transport gateway is a popular departure point for high-spending business people working in the capital’s two nearby global financial hubs: the City of London and Canary Wharf, and in-store product selections reflect these shoppers’ requirements for luxury.
But with a growing leisure profile as well, Lagardère Travel Retail has had to marry the two, while also developing a sense of place with a focus on London, and specifically East London where LCY is located, plus Britain more widely.
At the luxury end, new arrivals include a big presence for scientific skincare brand Dr Barbara Sturm, its first entry into UK travel retail; fragrance brand Creed; an expanded and fast-selling Champagne selection with prices as high as £450 a bottle; and Ian Macleod’s travel retail exclusive whisky, Rosebank Vintage Collection Release 2, which retails for £3,900, and is the most expensive product in the store with two bottles sold since the soft opening in June.
A more London-centric offer – which also means a more sustainable supply chain – includes brands like Whittard of Chelsea, chocolate from Notting Hill-based Melt London, and candles-to-bodycare newcomer Earl of East. Across Britain, there are many more brands listed, among them Cotswolds Distillery, and Herefordshire’s Penrhos Gin.
Tim Ward, Commercial Director at LCY commented: “In my experience, it’s rare to really feel that sense of place both through the product and the design of the store. That can only be achieved through a very strong partnership.”
The open frontage – which includes a bright curved digital screen running along part of the store – faces a large expanse of terminal seating and dining space, enticing travellers to enter.
Andrew Hodges, Chief Commercial Office at LCY, told TRBusiness: “The store is open-fronted which draws customers in allowing them to move back and forth as they wish. If we had a closed store and a winding lane inside [i.e. a walkthrough-Ed], it would not be possible to have the configuration we have.”
He continued: “We are truly delighted at the way this project has turned out and how the store has been delivered. It exceeds the designs we saw in terms of both display and the range of products. The store is performing ahead of expectations.”
Commenting on the luxury skew, Marion Engelhard, Managing Director of Lagardère Travel Retail UK & Ireland, said: “We have added more high-end brands but we have a wide selection of products across all price ranges. The traffic mix here is roughly equal between business and leisure traffic so we cater to everyone.”
The travel retailer’s relationship with LCY dates to 2011. The store renewal involved the signing of a new contract, which was described as “long-term”.
Engelhard explained: “The project discussions started in September 2022 as the whole terminal was being refurbished and reshuffled. This location is unique in that we have a broad price range to answer the needs of all our passengers but with some high-end products that are only listed here because of the luxury demand.”
LCY refurbishment ‘to conclude by end of Q1’
While the store is not a walkthough, as is the case in many airports today, passengers exiting security can’t miss the well-lit space.
They encounter perfumes and cosmetics first, with wine and spirits found further along and tobacco at the end close to the till points. In between are displays of confectionery and fine foods.
Some of the high points and novelties include the following:
A digital Whisky Wall from Diageo where travellers can let a computer decide on the best Scotch for them based on their basic tastes and then fine-tuned using a short questionnaire;
The elevation of British brands, with Hotel Chocolat and Fortnum & Mason getting expanded spaces while premium names like chocolate from Melt London and James Cadbury’s Love Cocoa have been added;
A dedicated Champagne display where Dom Perignon is the number one sku and an extended range of English sparkling wines, including Chapel Down, Balfour, Gusbourne, and Nyetimber;
A small temperature-controlled environment called Premium Selection for rare spirits and wines that includes Penfolds Grange Shiraz for £560;
And the ‘Launch Pad’, a premium location in the beauty area to highlight new brands or new niche offers that don’t always get space in airports.
The Aelia Duty Free store is part of a larger redevelopment of LCY’s departure area, which has also included the renewal and repositioning of a WHSmith unit plus important upgrades to the dining options in the terminal, with an East London theme playing across the revamp.
“By the end of the first quarter next year we will have fully refurbished the terminal,” added Hodges.
All images credit: Kevin Rozario