Retail, food and beverage and gift and news shop and other sales at the top 50 airports in the U.S. last year dropped 7 percent, to $4.9 billion, says the trade publication Airport Revenue News (ARN). The retail sales shops had the sharpest decline, at 11 percent.
Part of the reason, obviously, is the 5-6 percent decrease in domestic passenger traffic last year. But in my opinion, another reason is that at least departing air travelers are less inclined than ever to do retail shopping at the airport, because who wants to carry extra stuff on airplanes where the overhead-bin stowage wars are at full pitch? And who, on destination arrival in the current high-hassle environment of air travel, wants to linger in an airport to shop?
That would explain why you see so many sales clerks standing around twiddling their thumbs at the retail shops that many airports and merchants made expensive bets on starting roughly 15 years ago.
Revenue figures include the combined sales at food and beverage, specialty retail and news and gifts outlets. Things like airport parking revenue aren't included.
In the overall pictures, the sharpest decline last year came in specialty retail sales, which dropped 11 percent to $887 million. Food and beverage was off 5 percent, to $3.02 billion. News and gifts sales were off 9 percent, to $971 million.
At the 37 airports that reported international-traffic duty-free sales, revenue was down 20 percent to $646 million, ARN said.
Kennedy International Airport had the highest sales per passenger enplanement, a 5 percent increase (not including duty-free) to $296 million, of $12.90 per passenger. Falling to second place for the first time since 2000 was Pittsburgh International, where US Airways has sharply reduced service in recent years, with sales of $48 million, or $11.90 per enplanement, a 20 percent downturn. In third place was San Francisco International, with total sales of $208 million, r $11.17 per enplanement, a 4% decline.