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UK airports generate decade-best retail sales

Published 23 February 2010

Duty-free shops at London’s airports have reported their best retail income figures since more than a decade.

Heathrow, the world’s busiest international airport, has generated its highest level of income from retailing since duty-free for European travelers was abolished in 1999. The airport made GBP351.5 million ($542.5 million) from retailers in 2009, which is an increase of 7% from 2008. Retail income per passenger rose by 6.7% to GBP4.93 million ($7.96). The rise in retail sales came as the value of sterling fell against other currencies, which made British goods comparatively cheaper for foreigners passing through the airport. A higher number of transfer passengers, who usually spend longer in terminal areas, also contributed to the increase. BAA, an airport operator which is owned by Ferrovial, the Spanish infrastructure company, said that it plans to continue the improvement works at Heathrow and would spend about GBP1 billion ($1.5 billion) on new infrastructure in 2010. The company is rebuilding Terminal 2 as part of its plans to reduce passenger congestion and improve services. Retail sales at Stansted were also robust in 2009, rising by 2% to GBP4 ($6.17) a passenger. The increase was helped by British holidaymakers buying cheaper cigarettes and alcohol. The rise in retail sales helped to increase BAA’s revenues for the two London airports by 8.3% to GBP1.97 billion ($3.04 billion) in 2009, despite a 3.8% fall in passenger numbers to 85.9 million ($132.5 million). BAA also owns Southampton, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen airports.