Businesses in Miami International Airport's South Terminal await stronger sales tailwinds
By Scott E. Pacheco
Miami International Airport's South Terminal has seen 28 new shops and restaurants in the past year, with eight more to open soon.
But abundant aesthetic features and brand-name stores haven't prevented a slow start for businesses in economically trying times.
"We have been open since April; it's been slow the whole time," said Crystal Lean, a sales associate with L'Occitane, which sells perfumes and lotions. "We opened with really high expectations and it's kind of gone really low."
Ms. Lean said she has heard the same story from other stores trying to cope with slow sales.
Marise Frederick, store manager of 10 Minute Manicures, said business has been on a rollercoaster ride since opening in September.
"We're trying to make it," she said. "Some days it's very slow. You cannot predict anything — you can come one day it's good, you can come another day and it's not good."
She said even week-to-week there isn't consistency; one Monday might be busy while the next might be dead.
"Right now I understand those stores are hurting," said José "Pepe" Diaz, Miami-Dade County commissioner and chairman of the county's Airport and Tourism Committee.
He said a problem is getting people to stop and buy, especially inexperienced travelers who may want to rush to the gate to make sure they don't miss their flight.
"The whole idea is to put the brake psychologically on (passengers) as they are going by — I think by doing that we should increase it quite a bit," Mr. Diaz said. "Our goal is to make sure these stores survive and do well."
A couple of things should help.
One is the advent of recognizable stores. The shops used to be mostly unrecognizable, but that's not so today, airport officials say.
"What we've really got here is a shopping center — between [concourses] H and J you have a serious selection of retail and food and beverage," said Adrian Songer, commercial operations manager.
A Starbucks opened last week to join Häagen-Dazs, Bongos Cuban Café and Espressamente. The mix also includes Brookstone, Sunglass Hut, Rosetta Stone, Corona Bar & Grill, Coffee Beanery, Sweet Factory, Duty Free America, Nestle Toll House Café, 10 Minute Manicure and Sunglass Icon.
"For a long period of time… we didn't have all these brand names — kind of a plain-and-simple concessions not a lot of people even recognized," said Marc Henderson, Aviation Department spokesman. "The culture has been changed on that to where you got the branding."
In addition to the 36 restaurants and shops, service operations such as banking centers and currency exchanges are in the works, said Mr. Songer.
Another aid is an additional security checkpoint that leads people into the commercial area, which has made business "a little faster," said Ms. Lean of L'Occitane.
Commissioner Diaz said he knows there is a good product in the slightly more than year-old South Terminal, and the key is just making it all come together.
"Tweaking — that's the key word here," he said, "tweaking the system to make it presentable for the people to stop in their rush and say, "That looks good, let's buy it.'"