Hartsfield-Jackson launching effort to revamp airport shops

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is preparing to launch a major revamp of the shops in its domestic terminal and concourses.

More than 80 retail locations will be up for grabs in contract packages.

The effort “will allow us to accommodate the ever-expanding and ever-changing demands” of travelers, said Hartsfield-Jackson general manager Roosevelt Council at an airport industry day Thursday for businesses interested in the contracts.

Creating a local feel will be a focus for new airport shops, according to Council, who said the effort “furthers our commitment to bring more Atlanta into the airport... We value local talent and concepts that have a sense of place.”

Because the majority of passengers in the airport are only connecting through Atlanta, airport concessions manager Demetria Wideman said many “will never experience Atlanta.”

“We want them to experience our Southern hospitality, understand some of the great places to visit here,” and eventually visit Atlanta, Wideman said.

It’s been more than nine years since the world’s busiest airport last awarded contracts for such a revamp of airport shops, with current contracts expiring next year.

“We’re looking for fresh concepts,” Council said.

In addition to contract packages for shops around the airport, one contract will be for retail vending, such as machines selling high-tech gadgets, beauty products or cuff links.

Last year, airport businesses including shops, restaurants, rental cars, advertising, banking, luggage carts and other services generated a record $1 b in sales last year, according to airport officials.

But officials have struggled to generate more interest in shopping for things like clothing at the airport -- and they made that a focus in an airport hackathon last month. While some international hub airports have thrived on high-end boutiques and brand names, that’s less common in U.S. airports.

Hartsfield-Jackson concessions director Chilly Ewing said the airport’s vision includes locally-themed boutiques and shops that make people who come to the airport “excited about finding a certain brand.”

“This is not the same airport that our parents flew through many years ago,” Ewing said.

The opportunity for businesses is huge: Hartsfield-Jackson handled more than 104 million passengers last year. Locations at the world’s busiest airport are often No. 1 in sales for their entire chain. The airport expects the new shops to generate a combined $110 million in gross revenue.

Jockeying for big dollars also means big potential for conflict. A massive round of contracts for airport restaurants several years ago was hotly contested and generated legal challenges and controversy.

Airport officials say they plan to solicit proposals from businesses for the retail locations next month and award contracts by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the airport is also undergoing a $6 billion modernization and expansion.


AJC Business reporter Kelly Yamanouchi keeps you updated on the latest news about Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Delta Air Lines and the airline industry in metro Atlanta and beyond. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:

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