NPD Travel Retail Logo

Welcome to NPD Travel Retail

(formerly Counter Intelligence Retail)

We specialize in global traveler statistics, data driven insight, and activating against trends for all major categories sold in duty free and travel retail.

Skip to main content

Destination Design: the form and function of visual communication in Travel Retail

Every airport store wants to become a ‘go-to’ for shoppers. Indeed, travel retail is ideal for brands to showcase their offering within a unique trading environment filled with limited editions, exclusives, appealing displays and high-profile promotions.

October 2015 | by Julia Padgett, Communications Director

Yet we know this isn’t always the case. Sometimes the traveller is left underwhelmed, uninspired and given little reason to justify purchasing when in-store.

Whilst there might be more specific explanations for disinterested travellers at store level, our research highlights that a lot of this is down to a lack of considered retail design: bland, generic displays, overcrowding and an absence of store identity is highly unlikely to increase shopper engagement or provide a positive experience.

Design is intelligence made visible

We always recognise our favourite brands instantly by their logo, the design of the pack or certain visual elements that reflect the essence of the product or service. IBM’s influential leader once declared: “Good design is good business” * – and it’s clear how much time and money brands invest in their own story to make themselves more commercially appealing.

A defined strategy, set objectives and meaningful creative makes it easy for us as consumers to enjoy, appreciate and advocate a particular brand. The same careful investment is required in-store to ensure that brand stories are effectively translated and work within the retail design.

Travel retail acts as both a physical and emotional touchpoint between the brands and the shopper**: it reaches out to them, embraces them and immerses them at opportune moments throughout the journey.  As such, brands and retailers need to work together to create and implement innovative, purposeful and functional designs to engage and educate the shopper.

To do this properly, it’s important to understand the motivations of the target shoppers to encourage them to interact with the design, prompt purchase and optimise the shop space. Creative fixture displays and concise visual communications are key in selling an experience, a mindset, a feeling and, of course, products. When this is combined with the basic ease-of-shop principles, a successful brand and retailer design partnership can provide relevant, personalised and emotive experiences for the shopper.

From ‘bricks to clicks’ – and back again

The role of digital only increases the importance of meaningful visual communications and ingenious retail design. Everything about the physical travel retail store should reinforce brand identity and create natural bridges to online engagement with the shopper.

Offering an opportunity to create a story for shoppers to share across social media also adds a new layer to the visual communication strategy – one that not only involves the shopper, but relies on audience participation and ‘social currency’ for its success. The more brands and retailers can connect and delight the shopper instead of sell to them, the more likely they are to enjoy success and sustainability in the long-term.

What’s next?

At times, the airport environment can be challenging with limited space, high costs and strict regulations.

Great design helps to negate this and is a wise investment to give the industry further purpose. It enriches brands and categories, successfully communicates and involves the shopper in a unique, exciting and entertaining retail experience.

Future success for travel retail will involve giving consumers more than they expect from the shopping process – both in the physical and digital store. Design will always be at the heart of this, as brands and retailers develop new and exciting ways to connect with the consumer for optimum creative and commercial results.




If unspecified: CiR database

Image source: