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Toronto Pearson 1st Canadian Airport to Launch E-Commerce Platform

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Toronto Pearson has launched The Shops at Pearson, a first for Canadian airports, which is an online retail store that brings the travel shopping experience into people’s homes.

Giovanna Verrilli

Giovanna Verrilli, Director, Commercial Development at the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, said the launch involves just one partner at this time, Dufry. They operate both Duty Free and Duty Paid stores within the airport and offer retail items that are exclusive to the airport.

“During the pandemic, we were seeing that buying behaviour was switching to an online model and we thought it was the perfect time to embrace and enhance our existing online offers,” she said.

“Creating an online retail store also gives us the opportunity to connect with travellers who aren’t ready to travel just yet. With The Shops at Pearson, we are able to bring the products travellers love to them. They can experience the convenience of shopping at home for products that are normally only available while at the airport.

“At this time, we have only partnered with Dufry. As we expand the e-commence program, we will work to add more airport partners to the program. One day, we’d love to expand the program to include all retail outlets in our e-commerce program.”

The total square footage of the overall retail program at the airport is just over 253,000 square feet.

Image: Duty Free by Dufry at Toronto Pearson

The Greater Toronto Airports Authority is the operator of Toronto – Lester B. Pearson International Airport, Canada’s largest airport. Toronto Pearson has been named “Best Large Airport in North America serving more than 40 million passengers” for four years in a row by Airports Council International (ACI), the global trade representative of the world’s airports.

“This will be a permanent program providing there is interest from the public in it,” said Verrilli.

“We believe if (other airports) see the success and the value to the retailer partners, they will follow suit.”

George Minakakis

Veteran retail expert George Minakakis, a global retail executive with over 25 years of experience, said clearly, we’ve heard a lot about the number of retailers struggling during the pandemic. Needless to say, The Shops at Pearson have not come up in many discussions.

“Devoid of millions of travellers, I can only imagine how much volumes have dropped. My take is that if it weren’t for the pandemic, this marketplace might never have come to fruition. They had a captured audience, and foot traffic malls would be thrilled to have,” said the CEO of the Inception Retail Group. “It really is indicative that the travel industry will likely struggle for a few more years before it returns to pre-pandemic levels.

However, these shops are not luxury brands from a retail perspective, and you can buy most of these products anywhere.

“If this was the Dubai airport where I have been in the past, and you had a marketplace to that, I would be more excited. Perhaps this is the lesson Pearson is about to learn that they need to upgrade their offerings. I would give Pearson a six out of 10 for innovation, but it is a four out of 10 for the retail options. We need to keep in mind that online marketplaces are going to become oversaturated.

“Malls and Department stores (Saks Fifth Avenue and The Bay) have or are adding theirs, in addition to the ones that already exist. Brands also need to ensure that they are not over-exposing themselves and that their customers don’t get confused about where they are buying from, that happens on the internet.  At the end of the day, retailers globally in malls, airports, and high streets need to rethink how they conduct business despite all the hubris about rebounds.”

Larry Leung, Principal of consultancy Experience The Skies who works with clients on crafting and assessing their customer experience strategy, said, “The Shops at Pearson program provides the Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA) and its retail partners with the opportunity to engage potential customers outside of travelling,” says Larry Leung, Principal from Experience The Skies who works with clients on crafting and assessing their customer experience strategy., said, “The Shops at Pearson program provides the Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA) and its retail partners with the opportunity to engage potential customers outside of travelling.”

“Along with the shop and pickup concept introduced earlier, customers have more reasons to engage with the airport online and social media assets regularly. The rich data from searches and purchases will help the GTAA shape future product and service introduction thereby improving overall customer experience. Other Canadian airports can easily introduce similarly shopping concept powered by the Shopify platform,” he added.

According to a report by Statistics Canada, Toronto/Lester B. Pearson International enplaned and deplaned 13.0 million passengers in 2020, down sharply from almost 50 million in 2019. Domestic traffic fell 70.4 per cent (from 17.7 million to 5.2 million) international traffic fell 73.4 per cent  (from 17.9 million to 4.8 million), and transborder traffic fell 78.0 per cent (from 13.6 million to 3.0 million).

The new online shopping experience The Shops at Pearson will have products available for delivery in Ontario.

“We know people love grabbing their favourite products while at the airport, and now they don’t need to travel to get the items they want. As not everyone is ready to travel yet, we are bringing the stores people love directly to them. It’s simple for Ontario residents to order online and have products shipped directly to their homes. From beauty products to fashion accessories, the same travel shopping experience can be enjoyed at home with The Shops at Pearson, and there are even some with heavily discounted prices,” said the airport.

“The launch of The Shops at Pearson is a perfect complement to our existing suite of online services at torontopearson.com.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He now works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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