Firms compete to open new shops in retail revamp at Atlanta airport

Sixteen companies are competing for contracts to open new shops at Hartsfield-Jackson International in a massive revamp of retail outlets at the world’s busiest airport.

City officials aim to choose winners and finalize contracts before the end of the year — and before Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s term ends in January.

The companies are competing for more than 80 retail spots around the domestic terminal and concourses, split up among ten contracts.

Firms that threw their hats into the ring are HG ATL Retailers JV, Paradies Lagardère, the Marshall Retail Group, NewsLink of ATL LLC, DNC SSI ATL LLC, GA Travel Partners, Airport Retail Concessions Group, Crews of California dba Airport Retail Management, Hojeij Branded Foods, Duty Free Americas, National Concessions Management, Soul Vegetarian, Select Food Group, Stellar Partners, Business Traveler Service Inc. and Swyft Inc., according to City of Atlanta documents.

Concessionaires often form joint ventures including minority firms to compete for airport contracts.

The number of locations in each package varies from two to more than 20 in a single contract, with a term of seven years and a potential three-year renewal. Anywhere from one to six companies are competing for each contract.

A contract to operate seven locations totaling 5,207 square feet on Concourses B and D attracted a proposal from only one company, HG ATL Retailers JV. In the past, the city has canceled and restarted procurements because it said there were not enough qualified companies competing for the contract.

The contract that attracted the most competitors has six companies vying to operate three locations totaling 5,871 square feet on Concourses B and C.

The airport shop contracts have become political issues and part of a dispute in the Atlanta mayoral campaign race.

Early on, some concessionaires raised concerns that the city is rushing the contracting process as Reed’s term nears its end.

Then, Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, who is running for mayor, called for Reed and the city council to support a moratorium on the approval of city contracts that begin services in 2018 until the next council and mayor can weigh in.

The proposal sparked a battle of words between Mitchell and Reed.

This week, after former City of Atlanta chief procurement officer Adam Smith pleaded guilty in a federal bribery investigation, Mitchell reaffirmed his proposal for a moratorium on non-emergency contracts, “especially the multi-year, billion dollar airport concessions contracts that do not expire until well over a year from now,” he said in a written statement.

Although a number of airport contracts have been put on hold for months or even years, officials said they aimed for a “very aggressive” schedule to award the contracts in October and execute leases in December. On Wednesday, procurement officer Mano Smith said the city plans to stick with that schedule.

Some concessionaires had said they needed more time and raised questions about political uncertainty from a new regime coming into City Hall. The city delayed the deadline for companies to submit proposals from Sept. 6 until Sept. 27.

Retail locations at the airport last year brought in $153 million in revenue, not including duty free shops, according to the airport’s year-end concessions report.

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