Concessions Conference Highlights

CEO Brief by Aneil Patel

The 2011 ACI-NA Airport Concessions Conference was held in Atlanta last week, drawing over 350 attendees. This conference is a one-stop platform for concessionaires and airport professionals to engage in informative educational sessions as well as participate in extensive networking opportunities. The conference had record attendance both for the number of attendees as well as the number of airport representatives.

Airports are continually looking to refresh their concessions programs, to stay one step ahead of the competition. The concessions industry is an ever-changing environment and airports refresh their programs to meet consumer demand, keep within current trends and appeal to local tastes. Airports look to create an enjoyable shopping experience for the passenger by using innovative store deigns, visually enticing merchandising displays and appealing product lines.

Educational sessions addressed topics such as recent trends in airport concessions models, transparency injection concessions RPF’s, and access to capital. Attendees also had the opportunity to engage in candid discussion with their peers, in one or more of the three rotating roundtables discussing the C-store evolution, using technology to enhance non-aeronautical revenue or showing off the latest/greatest. Interesting discussions included the changing nature of reading habits and the shift to e-books. Another talking point was the future of bottled water at airports. Will more airports move towards San Francisco’s Terminal 2 innovative solution to reduce plastic waste? The airport has installed “hydration stations” airside and encourages passengers to carry their emptied plastic bottles through security.

The keynote speech given by Jerry Wilson, senior vice president, chief customer & commercial officer of Coca-Cola was one highlight of the conference. He talked about the Coca-Cola business and brand model, but he also looked at the impact of changing trends throughout the world. Creating brands and unique brand experiences are critical in today’s competitive environment.  Jerry says, “Brand = promise + experience + relationship! Focus on making brand important to your audience”.  One fascinating fact, Coca-Cola will serve 1.7 billion customers TODAY. That’s almost a quarter of the world’s population!

Another highlight was the 2011 ACI-NA Richard A. Griesbach Excellence in Airport Concessions Contest Awards Ceremony.  Our emcee this year was Robin Meade, star of HLN’s Morning Express, which is also seen on CNN’s Airport Network from 6 to 10 a.m., not only presented the awards but entertained the audience with a great story about being the only journalist invited to accompany President George H.W. Bush on a tandem skydive to celebrate his 85th birthday.