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It seems that in almost every airport I'm in, there are luggage stores behind security. How often do people get to the airport carrying handfuls of clothes and needing something to put them in? I realize that there are limited cases in which they could be useful, but why are they so prolific and how do they remain profitable?

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They sell clothes too so you can fill your brand new bag… –  Relaxed Jun 27 at 23:10
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Good question that had rather puzzled me. (Good answer though). Was "limited cases" deliberate. –  pnuts Jun 28 at 0:40
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It's for people who don't realize what a good ideas it is to check their kids in a suitcase until they've already arrived at the airport. Most of the last minute checked bags you see at the end of the jetway aren't full of clothes, you know. –  Jason C Jun 28 at 4:10
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Because not every traveller is as cheap and resistant to buying any over-priced product that airports sell. Having more money than most does not seem to correlate with sensible buying decisions. –  Russell McMahon Jun 28 at 7:14
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@RussellMcMahon Are you suggesting going back land-side after having bought luggage that is not allowed in the cabin, to check-in again with extra luggage? –  pnuts Jun 28 at 9:41

6 Answers 6

up vote 33 down vote accepted

Even though the people who walk past are unlikely to be want to buy a suitcase right now, they are still the target demographic. How many other locations are there in a city where you can open a store where 100% of the people that walk past are people that travel by air, and thus the type of people that will be in the market for your products?

How many non-airport locations around an area like the San Francisco Bay Area would you need to open a store in order to pretty much guarantee that every person who flies internationally at least once a year walks in front of your store? A dozen? A few dozen? How about if you do it in an airport? Perhaps 2? (eg, SFO has 2 international terminals).

Some of the luggage shops you find in airports are for a particular brand. eg, there is a Tumi store in Newark airport. Even if that store was to never actually sell a single piece of luggage, they are building their brand and allowing people to see and try their product range before going home and ordering the same pieces from their website or from another store - all of which works in their favor.

The remainder of the stores generally sell high-end luggage which they would likely be able to ship to a home location if someone purchased something and was unable to take it with them or collect on their return trip.

At the end of the day, don't think of these as luggage stores, just think of them as high-end retail, marketing to a demographic that frequents airports (high wealth/travelers).

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I am not convinced by your introductory paragraph. The point of the question is that in airport suitcase stores, nearly 100% of the people that walk past are people that already have a suitcase, who have already checked in that suitcase and are thus in no position to even repack their stuff and throw away the old one. The rare exception may be people who bring suitcases through security as handluggage (unfortunately, some airports still allow this) and replace those, or indeed (as suggested in the comments) buy so much stuff that they need another bag or suitcase. –  O. R. Mapper Jun 28 at 10:58
    
In all, the non-airport locations (preferrably close to housing areas) seem like the much better spot for finding a maximum number of people who will be in the market for suitcases than the security area of an airport. Compare it to offering an (additional!) full meal to restaurant guests after they have ordered. Yes, you'll find 100% of people who are willing to eat in a restaurant, but at the same time, hardly any of them are then and there in need of any meal because they are already about to get one. –  O. R. Mapper Jun 28 at 10:59
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You would think so. However long research into marketing and psychology, ultinmately backed by "how much gets sold" shows that advertising, even if not close to the decision or purchase, is still effective. This is how brand advertising works. As long as you know and recognize the brand the next time you are in the market, then the purpose is achieved. Given that the audience that walks by travels by plane, it is a great subset to advertise to in this way. "Today's advertising, Tomorrow's customers." –  Michael Durrant Jun 28 at 14:06
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Also think "Goodyear Blimp". The idea isn't that you buy tires on the way home from the ball game... but most families at the ball game will likely be buying tires in the next year or two. Hmmm, which brand to buy, what seems safe and familiar and has good memories... –  Michael Durrant Jun 28 at 14:10
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(Just to avoid any confusion, the "Doc" that left the previous comment is NOT the same user as the "Doc" that answered the question, or left the earlier comment above) –  Doc Jun 29 at 6:01

Setting aside the people who suddenly need more or different suitcases, an airport is one of the few places where you feel dissatisfied with the suitcases you have. While they're sitting in your closet, they're fine. You've used them for years and they work. But for the hour or two after you've packed them, lugged them from the car into the airport, and checked them, you know everything you hate about them: they're too big, they don't hold enough, they're too heavy, you don't like the wheels, the handle is too short, the color is old fashioned or the same as everyone else's, you name it. And you're surrounded by other people's suitcases to feel jealous of.

And now you have an hour to kill and nothing to do except pay too much for coffee or use up some of your reading material, and here's a store full of glorious suitcases. Maybe they have one that you were ogling somebody else use just moments ago. You can lift them, open and close them, work the handles, and compare in your head to the hated suitcase you just checked in. Maybe you'll buy on the spot and have them shipped home to await your return. More likely you'll take notes and order them online when you get back. If the store is part of a chain, they don't care which you do, this location can be more of a showroom than an actual selling things store. Of course, if you're carrying multiple carryon bags that you don't like, you might actually buy a replacement on the spot and swap things out and throw the old ones away. But the chain can make a ton of money if you never buy a full size suitcase there, as long as you buy one eventually. Heck, even if you don't go it, if you walked by and saw the name and saw that the suitcases didn't appear to be crap, they may have a financial case for that being worth it.

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Your second paragraph was exactly what I was thinking of! Just the fact that you have a few hours to kill helps them make a lot of dough. No. of I've entered a suitcase store in a market = 0, No. of times I've entered one in the airport = Uncountable –  Aditya Somani Jun 28 at 16:02
    
I bought a backpack in such a store once. I was travelling for one side of earth to the opposite and for some reason decided that taking a few plastic bags with me to the cabin would be a good idea. I quickly changed my mind and they got a sale. –  zespri Jun 30 at 9:29
    
That's an interesting idea. I have indeed frequently felt dissatisfied with my suitcases while at airports for many years and often had a lot of idling time, though I would never have had the idea to check out a suitcase store in an airport and would always walk past them as airport stores (or in general, stores with little alternative to go to) probably try to rip off customers. Just having a look and finding the same suitcase elsewhere for a more reasonable price sounds like a worthwhile suggestion, though. –  O. R. Mapper Jun 30 at 13:30

Suitcases may fail in transit. That's a built-in market for replacements.

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You're unlikely to know this before you get to the baggage claim though, by which time it's too late for duty-free shopping. –  jpatokal Jun 28 at 16:09
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@jpatokal Yeah, but you'd need to buy one on the way home. –  starsplusplus Jun 28 at 17:10
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... and many folks care less about duty-free than "I need something that isn't going to fall apart again on the return trip... oh, look, that would do the job." –  keshlam Jun 28 at 19:17
    
@starsplusplus I don't follow you. Suppose my suitcase gets trashed by the baggage handlers on my outbound flight. While I'm sitting in the departure lounge waiting for my outbound, I don't know my bag's been trashed (or it's not even been trashed yet). By the time I'm sitting in the departure lounge for my return flight, it's too late because I've already checked my luggage, either in the trashed suitcase or in one I bought somewhere other than the airport. –  David Richerby Jun 30 at 9:59

Not sure this fully explains it but the shopping area has certainly become an important revenue stream for many airports. I know several airports that have been redesigned to force passengers to pass in front of as many shops as possible, with S-shaped corridors and no short-cuts. Consequently, they sell a lot of things that most people don't need right there (and people buy them!). They are designed as a shopping location, not as a way to provide necessities so whether passengers already have a suitcase is not particularly relevant.

My local airport even advertises a service by which they keep what you bought until you return. As a matter of fact, I happen to know that they do sell a lot of bags so that in itself explains why these shops are profitable. Presumably, it works because airports are places where many affluent travelers have to wait or at least walk through every day.

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Why the negative vote? –  Relaxed Jun 28 at 7:15
    
I think this barely answers the question. The question is not why there are any stores in the airport or within the security area, the question is why suitcases are sold within the security area. –  O. R. Mapper Jun 28 at 11:11
    
As for keeping what you bought until you return, doesn't that mean you have to stay in the security area after arrival (which is hardly possible in most airports I have seen; you are immediately guided through a triple door to leave the security area after unboarding), or do they bring it to some other place in the non-security area where you can pick up your belongings? –  O. R. Mapper Jun 28 at 11:13
    
@O.R.Mapper What I am saying is that some airports have become shopping centers that sell everything (and not merely stuff travelers are likely to need at the very moment they are waiting for their flight), which does answer the question (they sell suitcases because that's one of the products you would expect in a department store, you don't need any more reason than that). –  Relaxed Jun 28 at 11:52
    
Regarding the layout, I guess it varies, I know a few airports where you are not guided through anything but have to go through the airside departure lounge/waiting area/shopping center to reach the border control/luggage claim area (e.g. Schiphol, which is the one I had in mind when writing the answer). In Geneva arriving passengers are not only walking past the shops, you literally have to go through the aisles of a duty-free shop, which I guess is also another consequence of the trend I am highlighting. –  Relaxed Jun 28 at 11:53

It's straightforward ... people have an old, rubbishy, carry-on or roll-on case...

They stop at the samsonite shop, they buy a fancy new cabron-fiber one...

they transfer their stuff to the new one and throw out the old one, or, just take both.

If you watch the shops in question, you'll see this happening all the time.

Also very commonly (I've done this, actually a number of times) someone will have no roll-on with them; you might be carrying say a couple of paperbacks, a shopping bag, and a laptop or something - so you go right ahead and buy a new cabron-fiber roll-on.

Note that the shops you describe only sell carry on styles. If they sold hold-luggage, then just as you say it would be illogical!

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At least some do sell hold luggage too... –  Gagravarr Jun 29 at 10:43
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Most sell full-sized luggage as well. –  Doc Jun 29 at 21:18

I think it is simply becuase there have been instances of people who had their luggages broken in transit from home to airport or between transfers. Why else?

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It can't be that. If your luggage was broken in transit to the airport, allowing you to buy new luggage only after you've checked in the broken luggage doesn't help. And if your bag gets broken by the baggage handlers, you don't know about that while you're sitting in the departure lounge. –  David Richerby Jun 30 at 10:03
    
Not all luggage is checked... –  Nick Stauner Jun 30 at 18:48

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