CHINA. Lagardère Travel Retail specialist retail concept Relay has unveiled a new store at Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport Terminal 2 – the first expression in China of the brand’s new look.

Shanghai Hong Kong Airport Management Company (a partnership between Shanghai Airport Authority and Airport Authority Hong Kong which manages Hongqiao’s retail operations ) said that the store, featuring “refreshing forest vibes”, stands out from other Relay airport and train station shops for its reimagined design.

The shop is notable for an alluring wooden structure complemented by interior plants that echo nicely with the interior space.

A cosy reading area adjacent to the glass wall looks out on the airport apron. According to the Management Company, this has become a new item on passengers’ bucket lists and a “cultural oasis”.

Room with a view: The dedicated reading area offers a superb panorama over the airport apron

In a significant transition to a hybrid business model, the Relay store offers a wide assortment including books, magazines, travel retail goods, creative products, toys, electronics, and art products.

Management described the store as a space where commerce and arts meet and coexist; and somewhere that consumers can find international brands such as Lamy, Dyson, and Marshall, as well as domestic names like Xiang Jing (a Chinese sculptor) sculptures and VIESCA.

Relay also features dedicated stands which display books and items that reflect Shanghai’s culture. In celebration of the opening, the shop has been offering ongoing rewards for consumers from 22 February to 31 March, including a discount for those who spend a certain amount, and a range of members-only activities.

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“The store offers a relaxing environment for travellers where they can slow down, unwind, and discover the fun of shopping as they walk around the books space and more,” said the company.

Over recent years, bookstores built around a hybrid business model incorporating the sales of books and cultural products, in-store restaurants, and events, have risen to become a standard feature in China’s commercial complexes and shopping malls. Today they are seen as a new “customer-attraction trump card”, the airport company said.

The store reflects the recent enhancement of the airport’s commercial ecosystem. Higher quality and a richer choice contrast with the previous offer characterised by low cost and lack of variety. That improvement has been driven by the airport’s business management team after fully considering passengers’ feedback on their SHA shopping experience and their strong cultural consumption needs, the company added.

After using popular lifestyle brands in downtown shopping malls with high brand recognition as the benchmark, the team conducted extensive market research and analysis on an array of domestic and international brands such as Muji, Tsutaya Books, Duoyun Books, Sinan Books, and Yan Ji You.

They also took into consideration the consumption habits and characteristics of airport travellers. The end goal was to build a boutique shop “that offers more than just books – an experiential space for diverse consumption needs”.

This type of bookstore, while retail, is not readily copiable like other airport stores, Shanghai Hong Kong Airport Management Company noted. In  its attempt to introduce an airport bookstore chain, the company noted that some brands had concerns about the unique features of operating in an airport and the related high operating costs.

“Most of them would still go for shopping malls as their first choice. But actually they lack a comprehensive understanding of the characteristics of airport consumption: stable high-quality travellers, high passenger traffic throughout the day, and strong purchasing power,” the company noted.

Hence the business management team have been “ceaseless” in adjusting and innovating as they sought to introduce a hybrid retail model.

Apart from a pool of brand candidates, the team also has a pool of professional designers for the retail shops. As a result they have managed to find a good balance between mainstream and personality, and between a commercial model and cultural elements, Shanghai Hong Kong Airport Management Co said.

“The win-win approach has facilitated the upgrade of the airport’s retail ecosystem and the transformation of the brands, allowing for a more experiential traveller environment that is able to meet passengers’ growing cultural needs.”

Going forward, to further enhance the flagship store’s image as a cultural space that embraces iconic Shanghai features, the company plans to partner with Relay to host cultural events, similar to those customers encounter in a downtown bookstore chain. These activities will include book signing, a reading club, interactive display exhibitions and more.

Coming soon

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