Retail travel: An opportunity for growth

Retail travel: An opportunity for growth


Author: Mark Saunders

Travel locations, such as airports and train stations, are one part of the retail sector which has held up relatively well during the economic downturn.

As a result, they now represent a significant part of many retailers' strategy for growth, as well as an opportunity not to be missed in today's world of multi-channel retailing.

Nevertheless, the legal issues and commercial considerations involved in entering this potentially lucrative market vary considerably from those commonly encountered with high street premises or shopping centre units.

Can you afford to be left in the departure lounge?
Many established national retailers are continuing to expand into new travel locations and other retailers have recently opened their first retail outlets in airports or train stations.

For some, the captive market and strong footfall on offer at travel locations provides an opportunity for growth in a market which has been largely stagnant in traditional areas, offering better profit margins and stronger overall sales growth. For others, travel locations offer a different and exciting new channel to access their customers in today's multi-channel retail environment.

For some years airports, such as Heathrow and Gatwick, have offered a relatively upmarket retail experience - but during the last ten years or so train stations have caught up considerably, such as the redeveloped St Pancras, the new retail concourse at King's Cross and the retail balcony at Waterloo.

They now offer an increasingly attractive retail environment, which in some cases are designed to attract non-travellers. The range of retailers seeking these locations now varies from books, stationery and snacks through to perfume and cosmetics, coffee shops, electrical goods and high fashion.

What are the risks?
The legal and commercial issues surrounding the acquisition of retail units in travel locations are complicated in comparison with those encountered on the high street or in shopping centres. Even the form of documents, often concession agreements rather than leases, can be unfamiliar.

Some of the many pitfalls include unusual financial obligations, sector specific commercial provisions, relocations, competitive tenders, bespoke rent reviews, price benchmarking and a general lack of flexibility in negotiations.

It is therefore essential that retailers considering entering this exciting market not only ensure that they are properly advised but also that they obtain advice at an early stage. It is crucial that all of the retailers' key commercial and legal issues are considered when submitting a tender or when the heads of terms are agreed, as this will ensure that negotiations proceed quickly and smoothly.

Shoosmiths' specialist Retail Travel team can advise on all the above and associated concerns and provide a service tailored to the particular strategy and requirements of each individual retailer. The team will demonstrate a detailed understanding and commercial awareness of the issues involved and ensure maximum value is gained from the opportunities on offer in the retail travel sector.

A version of this article ran in an edition of the British Retail Consortium's Retail Services Newsletter.