Bank Clothiers' 1st airport store to open in May

BWI site called another way to connect with customer

February 12, 2005|By Andrea K. Walker | Andrea K. Walker,SUN STAFF

Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. has signed a lease to open its first airport store at the mall taking shape at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

The Hampstead-based retailer plans to use the new location to target the business traveler, including men running late for flights who may have forgotten to pack that tie or pair of dress socks.

The 966-square-foot store, to open in May in the new Southwest Airlines concourse, will carry Bank's travel-ready attire, a line of wrinkle-free suits, shirts and accessories. It will be the first men's retailer to move into BWI.

"We're always shopping for innovative ways to connect with our customers," Bob Hensley, Bank executive vice president of operations, said in a statement. "Our prime location in the new facilities at BWI keeps us in step with their active lifestyles."

Bank joins other men's retailers such as Brooks Brothers and Johnston & Murphy that are discovering the market in airport retail. BAA USA Inc., the company credited with starting the airport shopping trend with its stores in Pittsburgh International Airport, is building a 140,000-square-foot mall-style center at BWI.

Airport stores have traditionally focused on impulse buying - that toothbrush you forgot or a magazine to kill time. But changes in the industry - including earlier arrivals to get through security checkpoints - mean that travelers are spending more time in airports. Some passengers plan shopping trips around travel, experts said.

"It's more than just an impulse buy these days," said Tina Richardson, a spokeswoman for BAA USA. "People are getting used to seeing some of their favorite brands in airports. Sometimes they may take a little time to pick up a gift or take something back home."

Retailers have determined that men, who typically don't like crowded malls, like the convenience of airport shopping.

"Men like targeted solutions," said Raymond R. Burke, a marketing professor at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. "They don't like to spend a lot of time shopping. If this makes shopping convenient for them, they will go there."

The airport stores are often smaller than traditional stores and have less selection, but usually sell merchandise for the same price, experts said. Compared with its mall stores, Johnston & Murphy airport stores sell a higher percentage of apparel other than shoes.

"Our customer is a very, very busy man and it's tough for him to find time to shop," said Danny Ewoldsen, vice president of store operations for the men's shoe chain. "It's a great way to bring our product to our customer."

Johnston & Murphy opened its first airport store in Pittsburgh in 1995 and now has eight stores in airports from Philadelphia to Minneapolis. The Nashville, Tenn., company plans to open two more locations this year.

Brooks Brothers opened its first airport store at New York's La Guardia in 1999 and has stores in 11 airports across the country, including in Washington; Dallas/Fort Worth; Columbus, Ohio; Raleigh/Durham, N.C.; and Connecticut. Ties and shirts are the biggest sellers there.

"For our customer, it gets back to convenience," said Bobbi Passavanti, a spokeswoman for The Paradies Shops, an Atlanta company that has the exclusive contract on Brooks Brothers' airport locations. "A customer might say, `Gee, I don't have time to go into town to get what I need. I can just get it here. If it doesn't fit into my luggage, I can just ship it.'"

The captive audiences at airports - the thousands of people who stream through every day, many of them with money - are a key selling point for retailers.

"You have a high level of customer traffic," said Burke, at Indiana University. "You also have a good demographic at the airport. They tend to be higher-income people."

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