As I was meandering through Logan Airport this past weekend, I began to notice the strategic layout of the shops along the path from security to the gates. Not only was the layout quite interesting, but the content f the shops themselves, including express spas as well as food options and news stands. The airport is a fairly fascinating place with respect to retail — and upon doing a little research I found there’s a ton of science and design logic that goes into the their layouts — not only to improve the experience of travelers, but perhaps more importantly to also increase the amount travelers spend. A few of my favorite tidbits are below:

  • “There’s a trend that the shops face the tarmac. Passengers tend to walk more into shops that have direct access to the sunlight”
  • “Uncertainty plays a huge role in passenger frustration, so the psychology of next-generation airport design focuses on calming anxiety.”
  • “You’ll notice that the gate waiting area is carpeted. This is an attempt to make holding areas more relaxing by giving them a soft, cozy feeling, like you might find in your own living room. Happy, relaxed travelers spend 7% more money on average on retail and 10% more on Duty Free items.”
  • “The time between when a passenger clears security and boards their plane is called “dwell time.” This is when, as the Telegraph puts it, “passengers are at a loose end and most likely to spend.” Especially crucial is the “golden hour,” the first 60 minutes spent beyond security, when passengers are “in a self-indulgent mood.” Display boards listing flight information are there in part to keep you updated on your flight, but also to reassure you that you still have plenty of time to wander and shop.”
  • “One hour more at an airport is around $7 more spent per passenger,” says Lukaszewicz. Anything that’s automated, from check-in to bag drop, is meant to speed things up.”
  • “Shops are located where airport footfall is highest. Some airports force passengers to wander through Duty Free to get to the gates. And the more twists and turns, the better.”
  • “Shops and restaurants are often clustered to evoke a Main Street feel, because people tend to shop in bustling environments.”
  • “More sales are generated if a walkway curves from right to left with more merchandise and space on the right side because passengers are looking right while (perhaps unconsciously) walking left”

Newer airports that have incorporated these design principles show that these little psychological tricks really work: According to economic analysis, the new Indianapolis airport (IND) “generates an annual economic impact of more than $4.5 billion per year for Central Indiana, including the support of approximately 21,000 jobs—all without relying on any state or local taxes to fund its operations.”