Make us your home page

Airport shops, restaurants running in the red

Traveling teens aren't forking over $40 for a Billabong T-shirt at Ron Jon's Surf Shop anymore. It's easier to find at table at T.G.I. Friday's. InMotion Entertainment now throws in a free carrying case if you buy a Panasonic Blu-Ray disc player.

Business is tough everywhere. But the recession smacked restaurants and retailers at Tampa International Airport with a double whammy: customers less willing to spend and fewer of them passing by their doors.

"We're getting pinched in the middle between the retail decline and the decline in the aviation industry," said Susan Stackhouse, CEO of Stellar Partners, which runs Ron Jon, Mindworks and the duty-free shop at Tampa International.

Passenger traffic at the airport plunged nearly 11 percent in May from a year earlier, slightly steeper than the decline for U.S. airlines overall. Overall, the revenue decline for stores (2.6 percent) and restaurants (6.6 percent) last month don't look too bad at first glance.

But a bunch of new offerings opened in the last year — Carrabba's Italian Grill, a Harley-Davidson shop and Brookstone included — mask the pain. Eight of 10 retailers open more than a year on the third floor transfer level were in the red, some deeply.

Revenue at T.G.I. Friday's has been off about 20 percent for most of the year, said George Tinsley, who owns the restaurant with airport master concessions contractor HMSHost.

"I can't remember being down even 10 percent," said Tinsley, also the owner of restaurants in Airside C and outside the airport. "People are holding onto their money tighter." The new Carrabba's a stone's throw away isn't helping either, he concedes.

At In-Motion Entertainment, which sells video and audio gear, sales at Tampa International were off 23 percent in May. Customers still buy $500 headphones, though one in the $100 range sells far more, says Eden Goldberg, vice president of marketing and business development. She finesses the current dilemma. "There's a change in the perceived need of what … used to be a necessity."

That's a big problem for airport businesses. Travelers really need only a few things. A drink if you're thirsty, a burger if your stomach's growling. Maybe toothpaste or aspirin or makeup if you're out. Pretty much everything else qualifies as an impulse buy.

Mindworks, Stackhouse's company's interactive toy store, specializes in "guilt gifts" parents bring home from business trips. The hottest item: battery-operated toy animals that roll around on a display table out front. "There's no question the magic price point is under $20," she said.

Unlike at other airports, TIA has helped tenants — shops, restaurants, rental car companies and others — with rent rebates of 5.5 percent, or $2.6 million in total. Tinsley and Stackhouse credit Tampa International's executive director, Louis Miller, for sharing their pain.

Shops in the red

Here is a sampling of revenue changes for TIA retailers from May 2008 to May 2009:

Bijoux Terner: +41.1%

Mindworks: – 6.6%

Author's Book Store: – 19.5%

InMotion Ent.: – 23.2%

Wilsons' Leather: – 28.7%

Ron Jon Surf Shop: – 31.1%

Source: Hillsborough County Aviation Authority

Airport shops, restaurants running in the red 06/23/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 24, 2009 9:55am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Appointments at Port Tampa Bay and Tampa General Medical Group highlight this week's Tampa Bay business Movers & Shakers



    Port Tampa Bay announced that Jamal Sowell has been named director of special projects. Sowell, a former member of the U.S.Marine Corps, will support internal, external and special projects, assist the executive team with management oversight and serve as a liaison on a variety of port …

    Port Tampa Bay announced this week that Jamal Sowell has been named director of special projects. [Handout photo]
  2. Drones restrictions coming at Tampa Bay area airports


    Starting Sept. 1, Tampa International Airport officials will be enforcing new height restrictions for drones and other unmanned aircraft systems, according to a press release.

    In this February 2017 file photo, a drone flies in Hanworth Park in west London. Starting Sept. 1, Tampa International Airport officials will be enforcing new height restrictions for drones and other unmanned aircraft systems,
[John Stillwell/PA via AP, File]
  3. Gov. Scott backs off boycott of companies doing business in Venezuela

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott will ask the Florida Cabinet next month to prohibit the state's investment managers from doing something they already do not do: invest in companies or securities owned or controlled by the Venezuelan government.

    Florida Governor Rick Scott interacts with people as he holds a Venezuelan Freedom Rally at El Arepazo 2 restaurant on July 10 in Miami. [Joe Raedle | Getty Images]
  4. Superior Uniform Group reports $65.6 million in sales for second quarter


    SEMINOLE — Superior Uniform Group Inc. reported sales of $65.6 million in net sales for the second quarter, up a percentage point from the same quarter last year, the Seminole-based company reported Thursday.

    Superior Uniform Group Inc. saw a sales increase for the second quarter, the company reported Thursday. Pictured is Michael Benstock, CEO. | [Courtesy of Superior Uniform Group]
  5. Air bag inflator ruptures, driver killed in Pasco County


    DETROIT — Automaker Honda says a driver from Pasco County died in a crash earlier this month that involved an exploding Takata air bag inflator.

    Honda says a driver near Tampa has died in a crash that involved an exploding Takata air bag inflator. 
[Associated Press]