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03/31/2021

Travel retailer’s newest store model is an interactive vending machine

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Hudson is offering 24/7, contactless shopping for hurried airport shoppers.

The travel retailer is rolling out an automated store concept it envisions as a miniature shopping mall — in an airport.  The “stores” are actually automated vending machines fashioned with bright illuminating lights and wrapped to replicate the identity of the product brands contained within.

The ADA-compliant machines will be clustered together in groups of two or more in freestanding locations throughout an airport concourse or in some instances, built directly into an on-site Hudson storefront. Next to the machines, interactive touchscreens sealed with an anti-microbial shield will showcase merchandise images and provide product information. 

In machines that feature eyewear brands, personalized augmented reality (AR) technology installed directly into the machine’s interface will provide customers a fully-immersive, virtual try-on experience that enables them to browse and find frames. Hudson associates on-site at nearby stores will be available to provide in-person customer service if needed.

Hudson also recently launched a new contactless shopping format based on Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology, Hudson Nonstop, at Dallas Love Field Airport. And several airports across the U.S. are deploying contactless shopping technology from Swyft Inc. that lets consumers stand in front of robotic stores and use their mobile phone to complete their purchase.

Aiming to create a contactless, 24/7 retailing destination, Hudson is partnering with brands including The Art Of Shaving, Maui Jim, Sony, Belkin, Apple, Beats, Brookstone, Lego, and Happy Socks. Having initially launched the automated store at Myrtle Beach International Airport in South Carolina on March 26, Hudson will continue to roll out the concept to other airports, such as Chicago Midway International Airport and Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport in the coming months.

Brands can be seamlessly interchanged and custom-tailored for each destination. This will enable Hudson to test brands before deciding to develop them into a standalone specialty store, as well as explore developmental opportunities with smaller airports where specialty retail offerings can be limited by space and enplanement levels. Each machine will be distinctively unique.

“Automated retail provides us with an avenue to recreate the strong sense of place associated with our stores within the confines of a smaller, non-traditional footprint – all while capitalizing on the dwell time, exposure, and convenience the airport environment affords,” said Brian Quinn, executive VP and COO of Hudson. “For the traveler, this translates to more variety and accessibility to the quality brands they are accustomed to seeing in an environment that enables them to shop on their own schedules.” 

Hudson, a Dufry company, operates more than 1,000 stores across North America in airports, commuter hubs, landmarks, and tourist locations.