Who benefits from a thriving tourist industry? The easy answer would be “everyone”, but that’s not quite the case. If you focus on immediate benefit, it is obvious that certain establishments profit more than others. For instance, if you wanted to open your store and cater mainly to international travellers in a city like Milan, Naples or Rome, what would be the ideal spot to position your new business? If you are thinking of the city centre, you are already missing the obvious: most central areas are already “occupied” by either historic establishments that have existed for decades or major brands’ stores. You should be trying to intercept tourists and business travellers in the only other places they are sure to visit: train stations and airports. And while concessions for such hubs are more heavily regulated than normal business licences, it may be easier than you think to obtain one, if you know where and when to look.
Why you should open your store in a station or an airport
Imagine never again having to come up with imaginative ways to get customers into your shop. Imagine never having to print leaflets, organise expensive inaugurations or give out coupons in the hope that your occasional customers will return. Imagine just having to focus on warehouse management, decoration and sales, as your products fly off the shelves. This is what you will get if you open your store in a busy train station or an airport. An endless supply of new clients, for whom your very presence is the answer to a burning need (they broke or forgot their phone charger, the strap on their backpack just snapped, that last pair of tights just got laddered) or the temptation during a long and boring wait (why not splurge on that new bag?).
What are the challenges?
So far, we have looked at the undeniable advantages of this particular enterprise, but of course there are challenges too. The companies managing the concessions will withhold a part of your income and the start-up costs can be pretty steep. Even assuming that you have the initial capital to open your store, you will still have to jump through an unusually high number of hoops. First because your business plan will have to be approved, and then because, particularly in airports, background checks on you and all your staff will be understandably thorough. Speaking of staff, you will need more employees than you would in a normal shop, because you are going to stay open all day, every day, 365 days a year, which makes shift management a vital part of your business. Hiring may also prove trickier than elsewhere, particularly if you open your shop in an airport, as most airports require a longer-than-average commute that might deter potential employees. Of course, once you find the right person, they will have to pass the required background checks. Not to mention the security checks that all the staff will have to undergo before getting to work every day. Last, but not least, you should be aware that your income might be fluctuating: it’s not only about high season vs low season, it’s also about last-minute hiccups that can prevent passengers to get to the hub – anything from a strike to a snowstorm.
Where do you start?
Let’s assume none of the drawbacks presented in the last paragraph scared you off, how do you go about this? First, you will have to find out which concessions are currently open. Tenders are usually published online and can be found on the websites of the companies that manage airports and stations. If you have an excellent idea for a concept store, but there is no tender in sight, you can reach out and ask to be notified as soon as one is available. If the evaluation commission likes your idea, you may be asked to present a detailed project for its practical application within a set space, taking into account the city, the average flow of tourists and the type of travellers that use that particular hub. If you want someone to handle the more complex bureaucratic aspects for you, you might consider a larger franchise, but in that case you will have to pay royalties to the brand as well as the aforementioned share of your income to the concession company.