THE EVOLUTION OF THE AIRPORT NEWSSTAND:
It’s Not Your Father’s
By Laura Samuels
In the early days of mass air travel (the 1950s and ‘60s),
airport terminals were drab and dreary. When flying on
business, Mad Men’s Don Draper and Roger Sterling did
not have a whole lot of choices beyond the airport bar
(which explains a lot.) Here’s why…
Walk through almost any modern airport terminal today and be nthralled by the relentless variety of inviting and vibrant branded
retail emporiums, restaurants and coffee shops, all
vying with each other to gain access to travelers’
wallets by offering tempting ways to meet their
wants, needs and creature comforts.
Comparisons with an upscale shopping mall are
apt and fair; often the two are indistinguishable
(except for the airplanes parked outside). Travelers
are rarely more than a couple of steps away from
a smoothie, a latte, a designer bag, a memory foam
neck pillow, the latest John Grisham novel or the
newest electronic gizmo.
It wasn’t always thus.
Not so long ago, airport terminals were bleak and
boring places — all ugly carpeting and cinder block
walls painted the same ghastly shade of institutional
beige — the air redolent of hot dogs endlessly turn-
ing on greasy rollers. Cafes were sad little holes-in-the-wall, featuring undrinkable coffee and stale,
plastic-wrapped pastries of indeterminate age and
origin. Definitely dine-at-your-own-risk.
There was virtually no specialty retail, and at
the newsstand — get this — the magazines were
displayed in a jumbled mess behind the counter.
You had to ask the attendant if you wanted to look
through the latest Life or Field & Stream or (blush,
blush) The Enquirer. (The blush, blush was because,
by asking to see the tabloid, you were sort of admitting your interest in aliens, two-headed babies and
giant vampire bats.) Three “asks” and you were
pretty much out. The rest of the merchandise in the
store, mostly cheap souvenirs, had an odd propensity
for breaking within 24 hours of purchase.
Twenty-five years ago, Hudson News founder
Mario DiDomizio and others of his generation of
travel retailers looked at this sorry state of affairs and
envisioned a different kind of retail program. They