"At a time when the remorseless erosion of the price-saving on luxury items is redefining the attraction of duty-free to many nationalities, a quality and value-for-money local offering should be paramount"
Imagine that an alien crash-landed his spacecraft on Earth.
Desperate for help, the intrepid voyager radios his command centre millions of miles away and is asked to describe the surroundings so he can be rescued.
The alien reels off a number of local landmarks, confident it will identify his landing spot. "There's a Sunglass Hut, some Ferragamo and Chanel boutiques, a Tie Rack, a Versace store and a duty-free outlet. Now come and rescue me!"
After a minute or two the radio crackles into life. "Spaceman 875, we have some good news and bad news. Which do you want first?"
"The good news."
"O.K. we know you're in an airport shopping mall."
"Great. And the bad news?"
"It could be Copenhagen, Singapore, Sydney, London, Kuala Lumpur, Guam or Rome, We may be some time."
Forgive the exaggeration in the anecdote, but it does serve to underline the sameness of so many travel-retail locations. How often do airport shops, in particular, miss out on the travelling shopper's spend because of a basic inability to replect the region or country?
Destination merchandise has been an industry buzzword over the past five years. But - to this skeptical shopper at least - putting a picture of an Asian street scene on the front of a box of chocolates made in Belgium isn't an irresistible attraction. If I want something memorable from that country I'm far more likely to wander into a downtown fine food store and buy a beautifully wrapped local product.
At a time when the remorseless erosion of the price-saving on luxury items is redefining the attraction of duty-free to many nationalities, a quality and value-for-money local offering should be paramount.
||The Bazaar modelled on the famous Istiklal street in Beyoglu offers traditional goods such as Turkish carpets, ceramics and glassware
So a visit to Turkey should be high on the priority list for anyone who sees airport shopping as part of the indigenous travel experience. Opened in some style this June, the new departures terminal at Istanbul's Atatürk airport is a revelation. An impressive range of international luxury items and premium brands is housed in some of the most delightful airport surroundings anywhere in the world. Alongside Bvlgari and Cartier boutiques, Turkish fashion names such as Vakko, Urban Travel and Navigator rub shoulders with their global cousins wit no hint of an inferiority complex.
Then there is the Bazaar, a concept that could so easily have been turned into a cheap, tacky and over-priced souvenir area. But Atatürk retail operator ATU (and its management and supply partner, Turkish company Unifree) has adopted a completely different approach. The store is what it says, a bazaar. Low ceilings dimmed lighting and crowded shelves all lend to the feel of one of Istanbul's famous backstreet markets.
The good are something special too. The art, culture and creativity of this great city that straddles Asia and Europe are reflected in a range of high-quality and competitively priced gifts.
Our unfortunate alien traveller might have been located a lot more quickly if he'd crashed into Atatürk.