TBIT is characterised by high ceilings, open spaces and natural light

USA. Los Angeles World Airports, master developer Westfield and concessionaire partners hosted a media preview of the high-class new Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) on Thursday. It’s a terminal that sets a new standard for airports in North America and that matches best-in-class airports anywhere in the world for design, style and consumer offer.

TBIT is the centrepiece of the West Coast gateway’s US$4.11 billion expansion programme that aims to make LAX a world-class facility.

At Thursday’s media preview (attended by The Moodie Report) Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told guests: “Before we began this project eight years ago I kept hearing that LAX had the worst passenger experience in the US; I kept hearing that other airports had a sense of their town that we didn’t have. I wanted stores and restaurants that looked like LA. I wanted a flavour of LA. And now that’s what we’ve got.

“This project is all about showcasing our city, the city of dream-makers. This airport went from being the worst to being world-class.”

Westfield Co-CEO Peter Lowy said: “It’s about time that LAX stepped into the 21st century. When passengers leave now, they leave with a taste of LA.”

Luxury in retail and food blends with eye-catching media installations

The ambitious commercial programme is centred around the 150,000sq ft Great Hall, and features more than 60 retail and F&B brands. The New TBIT programme blends an upscale international flavour with a distinctly Los Angeles feel. It includes a US$79.8-million dining and retail investment by Westfield and its partners and a US$25-milion investment by DFS in duty free.

As reported, DFS’s duty free space has more than doubled to 25,000sq ft, covering four DFS stores. Other retail and news & gifts are now also housed in 25,000sq ft of space, compared to 11,000sq ft previously.

DFS Group’s new store at LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal sets a new standard for duty free at North American airports

Of the 36 new retail stores, 27 are new to LAX and nine have never before been seen in an airport anywhere in the world.

Retail destinations in the terminal include the ‘Luxury Island’ with high-end shops and seating; and the ‘Boutique District’ that aims to mirror the style of the shops of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

There are boutiques from well-known local brands such as Fred Segal and Kitson that aim to “introduce the Southern California style to a global audience” according to Westfield.

Mayor Villaraigosa (centre), LAWA Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsay, LAWA management, partners and concessionaires celebrate the unveiling during the media day on Thursday

Other high-end fashion brands include Bulgari, Michael Kors and Coach. These are complemented by stores representing Hugo Boss, Porsche Design, Tumi and Victoria’s Secret. There is also an upscale XpresSpa unit offering luxury spa services.

Other retail brands include iStore Boutique, See’s Candies, Hudson, The Bead Factory, Bienvenida Flowers & Gifts, Angeleno News, Relay, Malibu Shades, Virgin Mobile/Boost Mobile, Travel + Leisure, CNN Newsstand Los Angeles, USA Today Travel Zone, The Economist, Sanrio Surprises, Hollywood Reporter, and 7-Eleven.

Westfield Executive Vice President Dominic Lowe (whose interview we’ll feature in full in coming days) told The Moodie Report: “There’s a very different feel to a traditional departure lounge here. We want people to flow around the environment in a way that’s different to other airports.

“The type of passenger coming to LA is also the passenger going to other iconic cities around the world. LA should not be any different. We’ve tried to create an identity all its own. And we do so with a diverse line-up of cuisine matched by complementary retail.

“We have big aspirations. The consumer votes with their wallet. We feel we’ve created an environment to help the consumer make purchases. We think we can double or even triple the current sales per enplanement. The proof will come at the end of August once the terminal opens.

“This is a showcase for LA and for our concessionaires. This is not a typical investment for any of them, but many have stepped up and taken the opportunity to reinvent their brands. And we’re conscious of rewarding them if they reward us in terms of concept and design.”

Mayor Villaraigosa (pictured with Westfield Co-CEO Peter Lowy, centre, and architect Curtis Fentress) salutes the business partners and staff at LAX

This is just the beginning of Westfield’s overhaul of LAX’s terminals. By year-end work will have started to modernize T2 and T6, with T1 and the Theme Building to follow.

Lowe said: “We’re looking forward to bringing the same type of intelligence from here to transform the older terminals. We’ve got to try to create an equivalent experience at those locations over the next two years.”

Westfield said that it expected US$98 million in concession sales from the new terminal [the company manages all retail, F&B and other services, but DFS has a separate contract with the airport -Ed].

LAWA Deputy Executive Director Commercial Development Group Debbie Bowers said the airport expected a minimum sales uplift of +20% compared to the existing concessions space in the international terminal.

Capturing the new-look LAX on video: Images of the new facility plus speakers at the TBIT unveiling (from the start, as follows): LAWA President Board of Commissioners Michael Lawson, LAX Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsay, lead architect Curtis Fentress, Westfield Group Co-CEO Peter Lowy and Antonio Villaraigoso

Leading concessionaires were enthusiastic about the new TBIT. Dufry-owned Hudson Group is among the major players at the terminal (through a joint venture partnership) with 19 stores in 16,000sq ft of space.

The list of shops includes five travel essentials stores and 13 specialty retail stores, including luxury brands like Emporio Armani, Bulgari, Coach, Michael Kors, Hugo Boss, Tumi, Virgin/Boost and Bliss, along with local namees such as Fred Segal, Kitson, See’s Candies and Pinkberry.

Hudson President and CEO Joe DiDomizio said: “This is the most beautiful terminal I’ve seen to date, and I’ve been in the business with Hudson for 25 years. This is a hugely exciting opportunity. Airport sales are about impulse. We’ve been given the best opportunity based on the layout and flow to capture more dollar spend.

“We say that travellers are captive but that doesn’t mean they need to spend. We are competing for their time in this new terminal. We need to drive revenues through great service, make them comfortable in the stores and encourage them to spend.”

Boutique wine store retailer Vino Volo revealed its new-look ‘Wine Country Casual’ design at TBIT.

“It’s the first airport execution for this concept,” said Vino Volo’s Development Director Marco DiBernardo. “We’ve been evolving our design, which now features more dark wood on the walls and a new bar counter feature. It’s a great location to unveil this look and sets a new standard in North America. We’re growing fast – we’ll have around 34 stores by year-end and we’re looking eventually to move beyond North America too.”

Westfield’s Peter Lowy (right) tours the terminal with the mayor and LAWA Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsay

Upgrading food & beverage

Westfield and its partners are introducing 31 dining units (tripling the number of outlets and increasing square footage by one-third to 29,000sq ft), of which 18 concepts are new to airports, including 17 local Los Angeles brands.

These include:
• ink.sack (495sq ft): Creative sandwiches from ‘Top Chef’ winner Michael Voltaggio
• Border Grill (621sq ft): Upscale Mexican food from chef duo Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken
• Umami Burger (739sq ft): L.A. outlet awarded GQ’s “Burger of the Year” title
• LAMill Coffee (563sq ft): Freshly roasted direct-trade coffees
• Larder at Tavern (1,813sq ft): Gourmet sandwiches, charcuterie and more from James Beard Award winner Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne
• 800 Degrees Pizza (654sq ft): Wood-fired Neapolitan pies from the well-known L.A. pizzeria
• III Forks (6,090sq ft): A modern steakhouse
• Chaya (664sq ft): Euro-Asian eatery with fresh fish and local, sustainable ingredients
• Petrossian Caviar & Champagne Bar (709sq ft): Luxury delicacies and fine wines
• Vino Volo (1,549sq ft): Expertly-selected wines and elegant small plates from the acclaimed boutique wine retailer
• Luckyfish by Sushi Roku (1,153sq ft): Sushi, fine sake and other Japanese favourites
• Short Cake (506sq ft): Artisanal bakery serving scaled-down versions of classic confections
• James’ Beach (1,052sq ft): Award-winning modern American comfort food
• Vanilla Bake Shop (165sq ft): Baked goods with high-quality ingredients
• Starbucks Evenings (1,321sq ft): Smart wine selections and light bites
• Marmalade Café (784sq ft): Fresh, California-inspired cuisine
• Other F&B options include The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Pinkberry, Starbucks, Drink.LA, Scoreboard LA and Panda Express.

Petrossian: A caviar bar that typifies the upscale feel of TBIT

The F&B concession partners include HMSHost International, Branded Works, Inc., Areas USA, LS-Concessions Management at LAX TBIT, CMS Hospitality and Taste Inc.

HMSHost will introduce several popular Los Angeles’ dining concepts including Border Grill, ink.sack, Larder at Tavern, Umami Burger, Chaya, 800 Degrees and Vanilla Bake Shop.

“It is hard to imagine one place where you can find so much extraordinary culinary talent as travellers to L.A. will find at the New Tom Bradley International Terminal,” said HMSHost Vice President of Business Development Joe Waller. “These restaurants are the creation of L.A.’s most innovative and respected chefs and restaurateurs. We could not be more proud about partnering with them to create an exceptional culinary programme that is worthy of this beautiful new L.A. landmark.”

LS travel retail North America will operate an iStore, a Porsche Design outlet and a Relay unit, plus a series of food & beverage units through a new joint-venture partnership – a major step forward for the group’s ambitions to develop its food service business.

A packed press conference for the media unveiling of TBIT

Chief Development Officer Vadim Motlik told The Moodie Report: “We have a good blend of retail but we also have a strong F&B offer, from a sushi bar to a caviar bar to the Three Forks steakhouse and other concepts. We have a strong interest in developing this area of business. It complements very well the retail element.

“This terminal is the nicest in North America by a long way and one of the nicest in the world. It has a well thought out layout and it’s supported by amazing design and media.

“There is a strong leaning towards luxury. That’s because of the importance of the Asian and especially Chinese traveller, but also because there is a high-end consumer in the LA area.”

The Vino Volo team at the gala event on Thursday night

Comment: One of the concessionaires at the media unveiling at TBIT told me: “This puts the rest of North American airport world on notice.” This stunning development does that, and more. To say that the new TBIT sets a new standard for US airports does it a disservice: this is one of the great new airport terminal openings anywhere in recent times.

The design is simply stunning, from the high-domed, wave-like roof to the huge media installations that capture the eye and constantly engage you as you wander through. There’s natural light aplenty, encouraging travellers to feel good about the journey, a feature that has been sadly lacking at LAX for years, as airport officials freely admit.

There’s a freshness about the style and the offer that also captures the imagination. There’s newness in the introduction of so many LA brands, from Fred Segal fashion to Kitson in retailing, to Border Grill and Umami Burger in F&B – and many, many concepts making their airport debuts.

Every concessionaire was challenged to deliver something different here, and its shows. DFS’s beautiful new store – for the first time with co-branding for the airport location – stands out as a prime example. Its P&C store can rival the best stores anywhere, on or off-airport. Its use of window displays across stores and categories here demonstrates how travel retail can be a superb showcase for our industry when merchandising is used to its maximum.

TBIT is a triumph in many ways – we hope that passengers feel likewise once flights begin later this summer.

We’ll leave the last word to the man who designed the terminal, Curtis Fentress, of Fentress Architects. He told guests on Thursday: “We set out to put LA back on the map, and this building is a leap in that direction. There’s now nothing like this anywhere in the airport world.”

Note: Watch out for video and audio footage of this week’s media unveiling at TBIT, coming shortly.