Travel retailer Hudson is re-examining the potential of the hotel channel after a hiatus of five years, at a time when its core airport business is struggling during the pandemic. The company has just opened new stores in Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, part of the Curio Collection by Hilton
The property opened on Thursday in America’s casino capital, joining existing Virgin hotels in Chicago, Dallas and Nashville. Another two are on their way this year in New Orleans and New York.
Hudson has six stores in the luxury 1.27 million square foot resort unit just off The Strip. They have open frontages spilling out onto the casino floor. The retailer is the first to operate at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas and Hudson CEO Roger Fordyce says “the timing could not be more perfect as we begin to witness the rebound of travel.”
Domestic air travel in the U.S. had been making a slow comeback from April to November but stalled in December and January. Nevertheless, hotel occupancy on The Strip of 42% in February is the highest since October 2020.
Hudson’s six stores cover more than 4,000 square feet and include:
- 5th & Sunset selling sunglasses from brands like Gucci, Kate Spade, Maui Jim, Oakley, Ray-Ban
- SWAG, a destination shop offering high-end fragrances and jewelry, branded apparel, swimwear, collectables and local delicacies
- Brookstone for gadgets, audio, entertainment, travel essentials and wellness from the likes of Apple
, Bang & Olufsen, Beats, Bose and Sony
- Chill by Hudson offering over-the-counter medicines, snacks, beverages, books and magazines, and other last-minute items
- Dunkin’ serving up coffees, fresh-baked goods, and on-the-go snacks
- Hudson, a one-stop-shop for travel needs.
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This is Hudson’s second foray into hotels following a debut at The Atrium, a multi-brand concept at The Venetian Resort Las Vegas, in 2016. The renewed interest is more strategic this time, given the uncertain picture for Hudson’s estate of more that 1,000 stores mainly in North American airports, but also commuter hubs and tourist destinations.
A Hudson spokesperson told Forbes.com: “We plan to expand our presence in the resort and luxury hotel market, whether operating specialty concepts, food and beverage, or our Hudson branded stores. While we have no additional hotel stores planned for 2021, this is one of our targeted areas for growth.”
Widening its travel channels makes sense for Hudson. As the North America division of global travel retailer Dufry, the company performed better than other divisions last year, helped by a greater reliance on domestic duty-paid sales, which have been more resilient during the pandemic. Hotels can help to further extend those sales.
Meanwhile parent Dufry is also expanding its duty-paid and duty-free business in South America with two new six-year contracts at Salgado Filho Airport in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Traffic is highly skewed to domestic passengers at eight million versus about 500,000 international (during non-pandemic times).
Since December 2019, Dufry has run four Hudson stores at the airport but from this month it will add a 7,500 square foot duty-paid shop, and from May two new duty-free units covering 10,000 square feet.
Dufry describes its duty-paid unit as a “megastore” situated in the domestic departures area and offering core categories like beauty and liquor alongside watches, jewelry, accessories, electronics and toys.
Last year, the Americas share of Dufry’s turnover increased from 39% in 2019 to 45%, bringing the region almost level with the travel retailer’s most important division of Europe, Middle East & Africa.