From higher airline prices and sold-out hotels to long lines for hikes at National Parks, the signs that travel is back are everywhere, even as COVID cases due to the spread of the Delta variant continue to rise. According to a recent report by Coresight Research, 62 percent of U.S. consumers surveyed said they planned to travel domestically through the end of September. (Interestingly, only 7.4 percent said they planned to travel internationally, which suggests that travel restrictions are still hampering that market.)
Leisure travel aside, the return of in-person industry events — Nationwide PrimeTime, BrandSource, CEDIA, CES — suggests an uptick in business travel as well. No surprise, considering that 65 percent of business travelers surveyed considered in-person events extremely important and 67 percent found virtual events to be less valuable than in-person events, according to Parks Associates.
All this serves as a boon to airport-, hotel-, and resort-retailers, which have suffered tremendously during last year’s pandemic-induced drop in travel. According to Coresight Research, gift, novelty, and souvenir stores suffered a massive 80 percent drop in sales year-over-year in April, but have since rebounded to near-2019 levels, while sales at airport retailers, specifically, dropped more than 60 percent year-over-year. The report estimated that airport retail sales will grow by $10 billion this year versus last year. It’s no wonder that airport CE retail chain InMotion announced in July that it plans to open 18 stores in U.K. airports, as well as expanding the InMotion brand to hotels, resorts, and casinos in the United States.
Not all headphones, power banks, charging cables, and mini-Bluetooth speakers are purchased “planeside” after travelers go through security, however. And since the bulk of this year’s expected travel will be domestic, it’s likely that the transport method of the day will be by car, and that the gadgets and accessories that U.S. consumers bring along on the voyage — dash cams, USB charge adapters, smartphone holders, radar detectors — will be of the road-trip-friendly variety.
More broadly speaking, if you’re an independent retailer, you’ll also need to make sure that you have that new pair of noise-canceling earbuds or smartwatch — anything that travelers might need on their voyage, regardless of transportation mode — in stock. Given the chip shortage and the ensuing challenges around procuring products, any store that has what consumers need or want right now will have an immediate edge. This strategy is “key” to success in today’s competitive CE retail landscape, according to DataVision CEO and Founder Jimmy Garson, whom we interviewed in the August issue of Dealerscope magazine. As he tells it, providing a quick turnaround for sales and repairs is one of the reasons his business continues to thrive after 31 years.
As the tech correspondent at Travel + Leisure for nearly a decade, I had the privilege of putting the latest travel-friendly gadgets through their paces month after month. While my voyaging over the 18 months has been limited to two coast-to-coast flights and four long-weekend road trips, I still keep a running list of my favorite travel gadgets. At the moment, the top three I never leave home without are: the Jabra 85t noise-canceling earbuds (seamless pairing, stellar sound-blocking); the Acer Swift 5 laptop (super slim and small 14-inch Full HD screen that gives serious bang for the size and weighs just 2.29 pounds); and the Elecom CapClip Pro travel mouse (this ingenious hors d’oeuvre-sized Bluetooth mouse is small enough to fit on an airplane tray table and comes with a clip case to attach to your laptop screen). As I head out to industry events in the coming months, I’ll be taking notes on the electronics I bring with me. Make sure to watch this space, where I’ll continually share my portable picks.