Don’t expect high-fashion boutiques and risqué undergarment merchants to populate the concourses and terminals at Sea-Tac Airport anytime soon, but do keep your eyes peeled for even more indigenous merchants to occupy the retail spaces there.
The airport’s main business is still airborne transport, said Sea-Tac spokesman Perry Cooper, but the retail sales component is becoming an increasingly important part of the airport’s income stream.
Gross sales at airport merchants last year were $169 million. That’s the highest ever for the airport and $4 million more than its sales in pre-recession 2008.
The airport receives, on average, about 13 percent of gross sales from concessions, said Cooper. Concessions are the airport’s second-largest non-aeronautical source of income after parking. Since the airport opened its new central terminal in 2005, airport retail employment has increased from 600 workers to 1,500 workers. That central terminal added a glass-walled courtyard bordered by restaurants and airport retailers.
Gross airport concession sales in 2004, before that new central terminal opened, were just $99 million, according to airport figures.
On the concourses, in the two satellite terminals and in the main terminal, traditional chain merchants have been replaced in some cases with Puget Sound-area retailers such as Vintage Washington Wines, Anthony’s Restaurant, the Seattle Tap Room, Africa Lounge, Seattle Seahawks 12 Club, Ivar’s Seafood Bar, Bigfoot Food and Spirits, Dish D’Lish and Tully’s Coffee.
At Sea-Tac, even the ubiquitous Starbucks qualifies as a local merchant. Starbucks’ first airport kiosk was opened at Sea-Tac about 20 years ago.
The airport is recruiting more local retailers. The Seattle Port Commission (the Port of Seattle owns Sea-Tac) recently approved a lease for Pike Place Market’s Beecher’s Handmade Cheese to open an outlet on the C Concourse replacing a business center that saw its sales decline with travelers’ adoption of portable electronic devices connected wirelessly to the Internet.
The airport recently rolled out a frequent customer program called Merchant Miles Sea-Tac. Purchases at participating airport merchants with a registered debit or credit card earn airline miles on any one of six participating carriers.
John Gillie: 253-597-8663 john.gillie@ thenewstribune.com