Big Fizzle: Airport Retailers Reel As Coronavirus Spreads

Big Fizzle: Airports Reel As Coronavirus Spreads

The real estate industry lives and dies by the mantra “location, location, location.”

The same could be same for retail, where foot traffic is key, where wandering customers and impulse buys can propel the top line. And if the reverse is true, if traffic does not materialize, or people look but don’t buy, well, retailers suffer.

Added to the list of those hurt by the mounting toll of the coronavirus: airport retail shops.

As noted by The Wall Street Journal, duty-free shops and other locations have been impacted by a steep falloff in tourists from Asia, as flights start to see lower volumes overall.

In one example, as noted by the Journal per stats from the Moodie Davitt Report, which researches the travel industry, airport retail at some major Asian hubs is down by as much as 70 percent, as traffic itself has dropped by 80 percent.

“This is the greatest crisis the travel retail sector has faced, worse than [severe acute respiratory syndrome], the two Gulf wars or various financial crises,” said Martin Moodie, chairman of the report. “That’s largely driven by the fact that the Chinese traveler has become the epicenter of the sector over recent years, and many retailers are worryingly reliant on them.”

Separately research from Pi Insight found that in a survey of more than 1,000 international travelers from the U.K., the U.S. and Asia, more than a third said they were less likely to touch items in a store or make a purchase if they had to stand in line. Some airports are starting to offer rent relief, said the Journal.

A bit closer to home, here in the States, airport foot traffic was down 15 percent last month in San Francisco, and was off 20 percent in Los Angeles, as estimated by Advan Research.

No easy time ahead, then, for perfumeries, duty-free liquor shops, newsstands and restaurants, where the skies (and revenue prospects) have suddenly darkened.


Plant-based foods: Sales of plant-based foods hit $5 billion in 2019, with year-over-year sales growth of more than 11 percent.

Faster deliveries: Amazon has established smaller warehouses around four more cities – including Dallas, Phoenix, Philadelphia and Orlando – to make its same-day deliveries faster. The programs sport guaranteed arrival times throughout the day for as many as three million items marked “Today By.”

Medical commerce: The coronavirus is helping to trigger 30 percent growth in wearable gadgets tied to health monitoring.


Airlines: The virus may cost the airline industry more than $113 billion this year, which is four times the projection of just a few weeks ago. In one example, Southwest Airlines has estimated that it will lose between $200 million to $300 million in sales – in the first quarter alone.

Hacks: Headlines are gathering on hacks, showing that, as reported by J. Crew, an unknown number of customers were compromised last year. T-Mobile was also hacked through an email attack.

Not ready for prime time: Right into a volatile week and soaring markets (okay, for a day or two), millions of Robinhood app users were locked out of the rally – because the systems went down.



The September 2020 Leveraging The Digital Banking Shift Study, PYMNTS examines consumers’ growing use of online and mobile tools to open and manage accounts as well as the factors that are paramount in building and maintaining trust in the current economic environment. The report is based on a survey of nearly 2,200 account-holding U.S. consumers.