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Brief Published: 13 Aug 2012

Tesco’s Virtual Shopping Walls – Gatwick Airport, London


Virtual supermarkets enter the airport retail space this week as British supermarket chain Tesco kicks off a two-week trial of interactive shopping screens at Gatwick airport, London.

While duty-free perfume and cigarettes may be traditional departure lounge purchases, Tesco is capitalising on the ubiquity of smartphones and the hefty amount of ‘dead’ time involved in airport stays to allow travellers to do their grocery shopping while they wait for flights.

The screens are styled to look like familiar refrigerator shelves and are filled with 80 of Tesco's most popular items. Consumers scan the product’s bar code using a pre-downloaded app to fill their virtual shopping basket. They can then choose to have the items delivered or collected up to three weeks after ordering, as well as browsing a further 20,000 extra products on the app.

Interactive screens for grocery shopping have already sprung up in several transport hubs and shopping precincts, including the Peapod Digital Supermarket in Chicago Transit Authority’s State/Lake station. Tesco itself has previously rolled out the same technology to subway stations in Seoul, South Korea, while British e-tailer Ocado has initiated shopping walls at the Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham, UK and the One New Change mall in London.

However, shoppers in Gatwick’s North Terminal will be the first to take advantage of the mobile-commerce technology in an airport environment. According to Tesco, the average holidaymaker at Gatwick spends 70 minutes in the departure lounge, making this a prime opportunity to browse and buy grocery items, with the option of timing the delivery to coincide with their return home.

Ken Towle, director of internet retailing at Tesco, emphasised the value of pushing the convenience factor. “When customers are returning from holiday they are thinking about replenishing the fridge and food in the cupboard… The virtual store blends clicks and bricks, bringing together our love of browsing with the convenience of online shopping.”


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