WHSmith launches two new curi.o.city brand stores at Gatwick Airport

By Faye Bartle |

The curi.o.city London concept’s design takes inspiration from London landmarks and attractions such as London Zoo, Notting Hill, the V & A and Natural History Museums, Camden Lock and Brick Lane, East London.

TRBusiness joined WHSmith at London Gatwick Airport (LGW) last week (29 March) to witness the unveiling of the latter’s first curi.o.city concept stores.

The new concept boasts 1,200sq ft of selling space across both units at the airport’s North and South Terminals.

Boasting a strong selection of souvenirs and giftable products, curi.o.city invites travellers passing through the airport to enter a highly individual, design-led London experience and choose from an assortment of brands tailored to the localised store environment.

WHSmith says it has been working on this concept for some time.

“The emphasis is on gifting, for others, and oneself, not just red and blue Union Jack souvenirs but something more subtle,” Andrew Harrison, MD, WHSmith, told TRBusiness.

Eclectic sourcing

“This is a break-out category where gifting can provide the incentive for people to buy in airports where the destination city is all important – curi.o.city in Gatwick is about exploring for products you wouldn’t be able to find elsewhere. Forty percent of these products are new to this airport with 25% exclusive to curi.o.city.”

The store design takes its inspiration from London landmarks and attractions such as London Zoo, Notting Hill, the V&A and Natural History Museums, Camden Lock and Brick Lane, East London.

TRBusiness was at Gatwick Airport to witness the unveiling of WHSmith’s new curi.o.city concept. Andrew Harrison, Managing Director, WHSmith (sixth left) cuts the ribbon alongside Jonathan Pollard, Chief Commercial Officer, Gatwick Airport (seventh left); Rachel Bulford, Head of Retail, Gatwick Airport (eighth left); Spencer Sheen, Business Development Director, WHSmith (third left) and other WHSmith and Gatwick officials.

Upon entering, travellers are struck by the balanced use of pastel colours in tonal harmony that invites them in, yet cleverly differentiates one brand from another.

Customers can seek out quirky and eclectic gifts, keepsakes, and mementos. Corners in the stores offer a sense of place and clear branding helps passengers find their way to shelves where individual products from UK suppliers standout for their attractive packaging and sustainability.

Paddington Bears have been the most popular product since the brand-new concept stores opened on 16 March.

Clare Harkin, curi.o.city’s Buying Manager, said: “We source from 70 suppliers, great products from independent British brands such as Aery whose Happy Space candles are made in Bristol; Grind coffee from Shoreditch; the East London Liquor Co.; COCO brand chocolate and champagne truffles; clay mugs handmade in the country; Cambridge Dry Gin, rich in botanicals made in small vacuum stills and presented in a beautiful presentation gift box; and Happy Gingers from Biscuiteers, original hand-iced biscuits baked in Wimbledon.”

To complement these, the stores offer a range of licensed products, including the much-loved Paddington Bear and Harry Potter under new brand partnerships, enabling curi.o.city customers to pick up souvenirs and gifts from popular institutions as described above.

WHSmith’s Harrison added: “The launch of our new curi.o.city stores enhance our customers’ journey by providing a great range of products and excellent service from an easy to navigate store.

“Our giftable ranges and truly localised offer ensures an exciting and memorable retail experience. Already we have received great feedback from passengers travelling through the airport.”

Rachel Bulford, Retail Director, Gatwick Airport stated: “The stores have already proved incredibly popular additions to our North and South Terminal departure lounges.

“The whole concept created by curi.o.city promotes Gatwick’s location as a London airport, while also celebrating aspects of the south east as a region. The fantastic range of products and gifts showcase some of London’s best-loved brands and attractions.”

Reporting by Ian Hill.


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