NewsLink Group became a worldwide brand by setting up concession stores in some of the busiest international airports in the United States. In 2011, however, the company took a leap of faith by opening the Shoppes at Ocean Drive, a 10,000-square-foot department store-style retail location in Miami International Airport.
Not just any company could pull off a feat of this magnitude to critical acclaim and with nary a hiccup. However, NewsLink Group is not just any company. In fact, NewsLink Group’s management and operating team boasts more than 50 years of combined experience in the airport concessions industry dating back to 1959, and the company has delivered a variety of retail concepts and store designs that it says are unparalleled by its competitors.
“One of the things that has helped us be successful is the unique combination of approaching over 50 years of experience in this industry with a methodology and mentality of pushing ourselves for new data and the more modern way of approaching retail,” President and CEO Raymond Kayal says.
Along with its department store, NewsLink Group has newsstand, news/gift, news/café, sundries concessions and food/beverage concessions in Miami International, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood (Fla.) International, Boston Logan International, Newark (N.J.) International, John F. Kennedy International in New York and Cleveland Hopkins International airports. The company employs more than 500 people at its various locations of newsstands and specialty retail concepts, including its restaurants, warehouse and distribution center, and corporate offices.
NewsLink Group serves as the exclusive airport operator of the Juan Valdez cafes, and it has partnered with world-famous artist Romero Britto for the Shop Britto storefront in Miami International. Along with Shoppes at Ocean Drive, NewsLink Group’s concepts include Coco Bay, Air Essentials and BookLink.
The Shoppes at Ocean Drive was the first concept of its kind to open in a U.S. airport, and Kayal says it took plenty of effort to open up the 10,000-square-foot location in Miami. Although most stores in airports max out at 1,000 square feet, the Shoppes had to accommodate eight departments in one space.
To make Shoppes at Ocean Drive a reality, Kayal says NewsLink Group relied on experts from all aspects of the airport concessions industry. The challenges ranged from determining how to supply a store of that magnitude to keep inventory on hand at all times to what sort of technology Newslink Group needed to implement.
“What it also took was a vision and push to do something different and something incredibly entrepreneurial and creative,” Kayal says. “The department store was a perfect combination of that, and the only way it could be done, in my view, is through the combination of 50 years of experience and the entrepreneurial and creative spirit we have here.”
Kayal considers Shoppes at Ocean Drive a success based on sales and customer feedback. However, the project had plenty of challenges to overcome.
For instance, the company had to determine which departments would have synergy to encourage shoppers to move from one to another, Kayal says. Also, the company had to create a central point-of-sales system that allowed customers to pay for their wares at registers throughout the store to avoid bottlenecks.
“We had certain estimates and expectations going in, but with anything when you’re a trailblazer, you don’t know for sure what is going to happen,” he says.
Despite the early success of its airport department store concept, NewsLink Group does not have immediate plans to open another Shoppes location. “To get in an airport environment space of that magnitude, it is not easy to do and airports need to be designed in a particular way,” Kayal says. “Over time, airports will create those opportunities, and we’ll be excited to do that again.”
In the meantime, NewsLink Group will continue to grow beyond its current locations. Kayal says if the company stays true to its focus on the customer and maintains its entrepreneurial attitude, then the sky is the limit in the airport concessions industry.
“If we continue to challenge ourselves in doing these things, we’ll continue to roll out NewsLink in major airports in the United States in the next 10 years,” he adds.