At Dulles Airport, skip the Cinnabon and shop for the runway

September 9, 2015 - Washington Post  By Andrea Sachs

On impromptu shopping excursions in airports, I have picked up hand-carved wooden animals (Windhoek, Namibia), swishy print dresses (London’s Heathrow) and jingling jewelry (New Delhi). I still regret passing on the Chanel pinkie ring in Hong Kong. At Dulles, however, my most exciting purchase was a Snapple iced tea.

Until recently, the shopping opportunities at the Northern Virginia airport have been more perfunctory than inspiring. Most of the stores specialized in travel-related sundries, such as neck pillows and headphones, and Washington-themed souvenirs, like stuffed panda bears and, um, saltwater taffy.

Since last year, however, luxury retailers have started colonizing concourses A and B. L’Occitane, the French beauty-care company, appeared first, in December, followed by Montblanc, Burberry, Thomas Pink, Coach, Michael Kors, Estée Lauder’s M.A.C, Vera Bradley, Tumi, Swarovski, Kiehl’s and Vineyard Vines, the latest to open, in mid-August. Erwin Pearl, a jewelry store established in 1952, and Bluwire, a tech-geek store, are reported to be next on the docket.

Starting in spring 2014, the much-smaller Reagan National Airport also received a retail makeover, adding Spanx, Brooks Brothers, Vineyard Vines, Brighton, Tumi and Pen & Prose.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority hired MarketPlace Development to reimagine 90 percent of the retail and dining options at the two Washington-area airports. The MWAA and the company are in the midst of selecting another round of high-caliber brands, which they will roll out through next year.

“Consumer tastes in retail and dining are ever-changing,” said Paul McGinn, president of MarketPlace Development. “Years ago, the airport was a place of transaction. Passengers now crave, and come to expect, unique shopping and dining experiences.”

McGinn said at Dulles, the nation’s ninth-largest international gateway, travelers typically fritter away 90 minutes between flights – enough time to exercise the credit card. He added that the top-tier shops cater to the rise of discerning travelers with money to drop on, say, a Burberry cross-body bag or a pair of Michael Kors sunglasses. The stores open at 7 a.m. and stay open until 9 p.m., accommodating both early-morning and red-eye passengers.

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