Ever since it was founded in 1996, APW Brands has stayed on top of technology trends. The organization is known for its airport retail locations, where it sells and services electronic devices and accessories.
The company began with The Cellular Shop, a cellphone and accessory store in Bryn Mawr, Pa. Over the next few years, the organization created the Airport Wireless brand, selling wireless phones and accessories from a cart in Terminal B of the Philadelphia International Airport in 1997 before opening a small store in the airport in 1998.
“We strive to stay on top of relevant technology,” says Miguel Mayorca, vice president of marketing.
It was at Philadelphia International Airport where Airport Wireless proved its mettle. From there, the company expanded to Cleveland-Hopkins and Newark Liberty International airports. In 2003, Airport Wireless entered into a direct retail concept with Palm Inc. In 2008, Palm and Airport Wireless amicably ended their exclusive relationship. Airport Wireless decided to grow its retail offering to offer a larger portfolio of products. In addition, APW Brands began rolling out new concepts.
“In the beginning, we could just put merchandise out and it would sell,” Mayorca says. “As technology has evolved, we have had to tweak our approach to merchandising.”
The first new concept was Techshowcase, launched in 2007 to provide business travelers with well-trained technology consultants and an environment that showcases the latest technology. Not only does Techshowcase help business travelers stay productive, it serves non-business travelers with items such as mobile phone accessories, entertainment devices, stereo headphones and batteries.
Other concepts the company has gotten involved with in the past few years include Soundbalance, a joint venture between Project Horizon and APW Brands. The company says Soundbalance provides travelers with advanced mobile electronics and educates consumers about sustainable products.
Another APW Brands concept harkens back to its roots. The Tech in a Sec concept brought back electronic product carts at several airports.
The newest concept is Tech Interaction, which debuted at Philadelphia International Airport in March 2012 before rolling out to airports in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Newark and Boston. These locations bring the online and in-store customer experience closer by making product research easier in a retail environment through interactive digital displays and in-store touchscreen applications.
APW Brands combines its market awareness with the needs of its airport partners to determine which concept to install. “We study each location and work with the management of the airport to put the right concept in place,” Mayorca says.
APW Brands is focused on keeping up with technology and understanding the demographics of its consumers. With technology, the company stays connected to trends through its team of buyers who spend time at consumer electronics, merchandising and retail shows. It also takes advantage of its unique place among electronics retailers.
“Our customers tend to be early adopters and know about technology before it comes out,” Mayorca says. “When customers come in and ask for a product, we have a customer request form and that goes to our corporate office so buyers can find the product. Our customers tell us what to bring in, and we have good relationships with manufacturers to help us stay on top of trends.”
Once the company decides to try out a new item, it has 10 test stores to determine product viability prior to rolling products out on a larger scale.
With demographics, Mayorca says the company’s split between business and leisure travellers has remained fairly consistent, around 60 percent business and 40 percent leisure. But there has been a change around gender. The company’s customer base used to skew toward men with a 60/40 split. But that ratio is now closer to 50/50 because there are more businesswomen.
APW Brands works to create relationships with consumers – who may visit multiple locations in multiple airports – by being consultants. Its people must offer solutions to help customers fix problems.
“We get a lot of reviews from customers who tell us about how we have helped them,” according to Mayorca.
APW Brands plans to grow. Eight openings are planned for the rest of 2013, and the company expects to double in size over the next few years. In addition, the company will continue to tweak its digital concept to find the right blend of the online and in-store environment.
“We are about 50 percent there,” Mayorca says. “It is an uphill battle, because a lot of the technology is new and we are almost like beta testers. But we can achieve our vision through enhancing the presentation of our digital experience.”