Shopping

What do people buy at airports? Pig “poop,” cactus, records & more.

What can you  buy at airports? Gucci bags, of course, but also plenty of locally-themed items that can be great souvenirs of your trip.

Here’s a slightly different version of a column on airport bestsellers I put together for CNBC.

Bottled water and neck pillows may be the top selling items in many airport newsstands, but around the country passengers are also making room in their carry-ons for containers of mustard, tins of popcorn and a plethora of pink headphones.

As airports around the country sharpen their focus on customer satisfaction and increase their reliance on income from food and beverage, specialty retail and other non-aeronautical revenue, concourses are getting more comfortable and shop offerings are becoming more creative.

At Denver International Airport, almond toffee made in nearby Grand Junction, CO by Enstrom Coffee & Confectionary is a top seller, while at the gourmet 1897 Market operated by HMSHost at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, locally-made Sweet Girl Cookies and Queen Charlotte’s Original Pimento Cheese are customer favorites.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport does a brisk business in scorpion suckers (hard candy with a scorpion in the center) and racks up a million dollars in sales of cactus plants each year.

“We have a variety of different shapes and sizes packaged so that travelers can take one home with them,” said Heather Lissner, spokeswoman for the Aviation Department of the City of Phoenix, “We also offer a petting cactus, which is easy to touch compared to the other varieties.”

Flying Pig products – pig hats, plush pigs, pig-shaped lip gloss, bags of Pig Poop (chocolate covered peanuts) and other souvenirs depicting winged pigs – are, collectively, the top selling merchandise in the shops at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Why flying pigs? During the mid-to-late 1800s, Cincinnati was the largest pork processing center in the country, earning the nickname ‘Porkopolis.’ Winged pigs are one way the city embraces its past.

Speaking of pigs, at San Francisco International Airport – which recently added a pig to its team of therapy animals that visit with passengers – locally-made Candied Bacon Caramel Corn from Chunky Pig is reportedly flying off the shelves at the Skyline News Shop in Terminal 3.

At Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, Garrett Popcorn – a modern hometown favorite, is a perennial top seller.

Combined, the two Garrett Popcorn Shops at O’Hare sold more than 47,000 one-gallon tins of popcorn (assorted varieties) during 2016, at an average price of $34.50 a tin, said Gregg Cunningham of the Chicago Department of Aviation.

Sweet Beginnings Honey, made by bees at the airport’s apiary also sells well at the O’Hare Farmers’ Market.

During February alone, the shops at Norman Mineta San Jose International sold more than 15,000 bottles of water, more than 200 Belkin phone chargers and an equal number of Golden State Warriors and Steph Curry-branded clothing.

Sports-related merchandise is a big seller at other airports as well – especially when teams and players are winning.

At the AIRMALL at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, sports memorabilia sells well, but so does locally-made ballpark-style mustard; at the rate of 40 cases each month.

Both Stadium and Bertman brand mustards are sold at CLE, with Stadium outselling Bertman by 15 to 20 percent, AIRMALL reports.

Sasquatch and Big Foot-branded items, including t-shirts, stickers, food and books are popular right now at the Made in Oregon stores at Portland International Airport. But store manager Candace Vincent said the airport stores sold more than $1 million of carpet-themed products (neck pillows, socks, shirts, jam, etc.) during 2015 and 2016 when locals mourning the replacement of the airport’s iconic teal flooring turned the rug and its pattern into an on-line sensation.

And at Newark Liberty International Airport, travelers have been snapping up vinyl records from the shop at CBGB L.A.B (lounge and bar) operated by OTG in Terminal C.

“We don’t report volumes, but I can tell you it’s the top seller in that retail concept,” said Eric Brinker, OTG’s Vice President of Experience, “People are buying record players in the shop as well.”

In Houston, where OTG is working with United Airlines to redo the dining and retail offerings in its terminals at George Bush Intercontinental Airport, there’s also a surprising best-seller.

“We sell tons of headphones in Houston,” said Brinker, “And for some reason we sell more pink headphones in Texas than in any other place in the country.”

(All photos courtesy of the respective airports.)

New, old-fashioned arcade at Orlando Int’l Airport

With theme park-like phot ops, a fun fountain, a giant aquarium, art and plenty of shops and restaurants Orlando International Airport is already quite fun.

With the addition of the 2,000 square-foot old-fashioned Power Play Arcade, the fun meter now goes higher.

The arcade is part of the redevelopment of a larger area that now also includes a Skechers footwear shop, a branch of XpresSpa, Natalie’s Candy Jar, a Tumi travel gear store, Desigual, Guess, Timeless Travel (watches) and Naturally Inspired – selling “an eco-friendly line of hand-crafted wares.”

(Photo courtesy Westfield)

Souvenir Sunday – Not yet for sale at Seattle’s Airport

Seattle-Tacoma International held an educational fair on Friday to help small business owners in the area learn what it takes to get their products into the airport.

After a couple of information-packed panels, some hopeful entrepreneurs showed off souvenirs, food and even some cannabis-themed health and beauty aids that may soon show up in the SEA shops.

The cookie above,  known as “That Cookie,” is already wildly popular at local gourmet grocery stores.

And these Seattle-themed pouches and bags are carried in the big souvenir shops in town.

 

 

These twins – juniors in college – are hoping their bottled water called “Plane Water” – now sold in just one airport shop – will get sold alongside the national brands of bottled water sold throughout the airport.

This line of cannabis-themed health and beauty products got a lot of attention. “I just need to run it by legal,” said a rep from a airport vendor hoping to pick up the line.

 

 

 

Souvenir Sunday: Open House at PIT Airport

pit-airport-santa

Now that Thanksgiving is over, it’s time to get going on that holiday shopping list.

And for the third year in a row, Pittsburgh International Airport will be doing its part by hosting a one-day Holiday Open House – on Saturday, December 3 – where the general public gets access to all the post-security airport shops.

The airport updated and upgraded its mix of local and high-end retail shops and restaurants not too long ago with the likes of Martini, Vino Volo, Strip Market, Armani Jeans, Hugo Boss, Harley Davidson and Sportzburgh and on December 3 will have an on-site Santa, music, free parking and a wide variety of retail and dining specials.

It’s a great event for locals, of course, but a reminder for anyone passing through PIT Airport to check out the shops anytime. Especially because in Pennsylvania there’s no tax on most clothing – and shoes.

Registration details for the Open House and a list of specials for the day are here.

pit-kidsport

And next time you’re at PIT Airport, make your way over to Concourse C, where there’s a new and improved Kidsport as well.

 

 

 

 

You can still buy campaign memorabilia at DCA & Dulles Airports.

bobble-heads

Whether your candidate won or lost last night, you can still stock up on souvenir memorabilia from this year’s Presidential campaign in a variety of shops at both Dulles International and Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton bobble head dolls were the big sellers this season, according to Market Place Development – the company that operates the concessions at both airports – as were Trump and Clinton candy bars, Donald Trump plush toys, and Hillary Clinton “We Can Do It!” coffee mugs.

trump-plush-doll

hillary-mug