There was a time when arriving at and departing Melbourne Airport meant bland fast-food and coffee in a polystyrene cup. Thankfully, the introduction of brands such as ST. ALi and Brunettis have made top notch food and award-winning coffee available at all hours to travellers and airport staff.
Andrew Gardiner, chief of retail at Melbourne Airport, says this change has come from working with local retailers. “The vision is to create an airport that Melbourne can be proud of,” he says.
For Gardiner, the appeal for retailers of having an outlet within the airport is clear.
“Given the airport is a gateway, exposure to millions of international customers every year, and customers from all over Victoria and Australia 24/7, 365 days a year, are the benefits to businesses which have their name, brand, products and services seen and experienced.”
Melbourne Airport passenger numbers jumped 4.3 per cent to 38.1 million over the financial year 2017-2018. International passengers made up 11 million potential retail and restaurant diners within the airport.
While major international airports such as Singapore and Heathrow have extended into yoga studios and waterfall features, Gardiner dismisses these for Melbourne, but only for now.
“Melbourne is either an origin or destination airport with less requirement for these facilities,” he says.
“We conduct extensive research every year to ascertain customers’ needs and if this was high on the agenda then we would explore these options. We are very customer driven with research informing tenant mix.”
Founder of ST. ALi, Salvatore Malatesta says he is committed to their airport store for the long term and has signed a seven-year lease.
The cafe opened five weeks ago and is one of several ST. ALi cafes in Melbourne and Jakarta, and among 15 businesses in total run by Malatesta.
“Melbourne Airport has spent a fortune making the airport relevant and best-in-category, so we were encouraged by the renewal plans,” Malatesta says. “Also, the world is a smaller place now and having a presence in transit hot spots is critical for anyone having a global view on business.”
His investment in the lease is one that gives his brand and products exposure to international travellers, and also establishes a sense of community for those who are frequent travellers and coffee lovers.
“Airports are the gateways to the global community, who are absolutely our customer base. Coffee buying involves an enormous commitment to travel and for a lot of people in specialty coffee, airports are like a second home.
“As far as business and profit [are concerned], we don’t focus on a traditional ROI strategy. Rather, we believe firmly that ingraining ourselves into these communities will place the business in a good position for the long play.
“The community that travel frequently all know each other and recognise fellow travellers, so ST. ALi at the airport feels like regular café to global citizens.”
Gardiner reflects Malatesta’s view on measuring value in both profits and in customer feedback.
“The retail team monitor results but ultimately success is defined by our customers’ happiness translating to purchases and retailers’ profitability.”
So, what other brands and businesses can we expect to see on the next suitcase-toting, passport-waving trek through the airport?
“There are many new exciting Melbourne-based brands which will enter the airport before the end of 2019 which will be announced later this year,” Gardiner says.
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