Glimpsing the future at Gatwick

London Gatwick may not be the most exotic travel retail location for a brit such as myself.

However, the new walk-through departures store which World Duty Free opened in the UK’s second-largest international airport late last year gives an interesting insight into the direction of travel of much of the wider duty free industry. I was at Gatwick for an in-depth tour of the 2,000sq m store at the official opening and it strikes me that several features of the design and its liquor offer have a wider significance worth sharing.


For starters, the new store goes all out to woo fickle, smartphone-clutching millennials with digital touch points strategically located throughout. For instance, digital screens have been erected above the cocktail bar (promoting Beluga vodka when I passed through) and in the World of Whisky shop-in-shop. These screens can show promotional messages and offers. They also run targeted supplier videos and all the’ content can be changed at the touch of a button, depending on the nationality of passengers walking through the terminal at different times.


The liquor category in travel retail has many challenges to overcome, but one that is rarely mentioned is competition from the increasingly dominant beauty sector. At Gatwick North, the beauty category is allocated an enormous 628sq m – more than 30% of the shop’s entire footprint. Space for wines and spirits is much more limited at just over 10%. In particular, still wine has to make do with a limited assortment.


The Gatwick WDF store features a new Gin Collection concept, which not only showcases established brands, but shines the spotlight on local craft gins such as Surrey-based Silent Pool and quirky offerings such as the Japan-inspired Scottish gin Jinzu. Gin sales have grown 40-45% at the North Terminal since the Gin Collection opened.


Single malt scotch remains the key sales driver for World Duty Free at its UK airport stores although, at Gatwick North, Irish and American whiskies are growing in popularity. The previous standalone World of Whiskies store at the terminal has been brought inside the new main outlet, but retains key elements such as a Rare & Vintage area showcasing whiskies (and other spirits) priced at over £500.


The key design feature of the new London Gatwick North store is a central walkway which snakes its way through the store like a retail version of the yellow brick road. For any time-pressed Dorothy wanting to head to their gate, being forced to wind their way through a busy shop before arriving in the main terminal must be frustrating. I share their pain, but I suspect the improved penetration rates and sales results this type of store format generates makes it likely that walk-through stores will remain with us for years to come.