Points of Purchase: À la Carte

Apex-Experience-6.4-23 Retail Touch Points 4

Image: Fabrizio Morra

APEX Insight: From booking to post flight, the opportunities to buy while traveling are abundant. In Part Three of “Points of Purchase,” we look at what’s selling from the galley cart and ways to revamp the in-flight ancillary revenue mainstay.

The sound of a galley cart coming down the aisle signals an opportunity to buy on board. These days, it’s not necessarily the luxury duty-free items like the Montblanc belts or bottles of Chanel perfume that are flying off the carts – it’s sandwiches.

According to GuestLogix’s Airline Onboard Retail Market Assessment, buy-on-board sales growth has been driven entirely by fresh food, led by low-cost European airlines like Norwegian, easyJet and Ryanair and their no-frills models that keep airfares low, but means passengers have to fork over a few extra euros for a coffee or croissant.

“We’re not selling the luxury end of the market anymore.” – Tony Detter, Inflight Sales Group

The trend of lower price points also echoes in duty-free shops. “We’re not selling the luxury end of the market anymore,” says Tony Detter, managing director of Inflight Sales Group (ISG), a Hong Kong-based in-flight retail supplier, in an interview with Duty-Free News International. “We’re really riding the bridge brands and a lot more [items at the] entry price point.” One item that’s been particularly popular with ISG’s clients, which include carriers like Cathay Pacific and AirAsia, are fashion watches.

In addition to offering everyday items, Detter says it’s important to change up the product offering. “What’s really been important is keeping the assortment as fresh as possible … which means more wearable technology, more beauty devices. We want to have the newest product, the newest version at the same time the local markets do.”

“Passengers seeing in-flight sales items well displayed at eye level were more tempted to make that impulse additional purchase.” — Ken Griffiths, Trolley Toppers.

As for pushing trolley sales, sometimes the items have to be in plain view for passengers to consider them. Trolley Toppers is a transparent display case that does just that. “Passengers seeing in-flight sales items well displayed at eye level were more tempted to make that impulse additional purchase,” says Ken Griffiths, head of Product Design, Trolley Toppers. After one Middle Eastern airline tested the product in flight, it ordered the toppers for its entire fleet.

And while shopping through the in-flight entertainment systems allows passengers more privacy for their purchases, seeing one passenger buy a package of hickory smoked almonds might tempt another passenger to make a purchase, too. “Busy-looking stores generate their own excitement,” says Pedro Gardete, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, in a report on in-flight retail behavior conducted for an American airline. “Simply being on a full flight and watching others buy snacks causes passengers to spend more.”

“À la Carte” was originally published in the multipart feature, “Points of Purchase,” in the October/November issue of APEX Experience magazine. 

Caroline is managing editor at APEX Media.