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Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, brought to you by Webstop, experts in the art of retail website design.

So there was an interesting piece in the New York Times the other day about some of the best places in the country to buy local food. This was of some interest to me, because as I’m traveling around the country, one of my goals is always to eat the local cuisine and drink the local beer and wine…it simply is one of the best ways to get a sense of a region and a people.

But it ends up that local brands are finding an unusual place to offer their wares – the local airport.

That’s right. According to the Times, “as the travel industry grows and airports strive to distinguish themselves, food and beverage courts are diversifying, too. For local brands, that can mean landing a tiny space in a big terminal and attracting lots of customers.”

This means that airports, looking to create for themselves differential advantages, are looking to attract tenants who can sell things – especially food and beverages – that people can’t get elsewhere. And it means that these retailers are looking to create differential advantages for themselves by going where the consumers are, as opposed to waiting for consumers to find them.

Some examples – Balducci’s, the famed New York gourmet grocer, has a store at Kennedy Airport. At San Francisco International, eighty percent of the vendors are said to be local, and it has one of the best food courts of any airport in the country. Heck, I was changing planes in Charlotte, North Carolina, the other day and I noticed that there is a wine bar there serving only local vintages.

Now, this isn’t to suggest that national brands and chains are going away – just that local brand names are stepping up to compete with them, and are doing so by offering products the big guys cannot replicate.

I’m intrigued for two reasons. One is that I like it when local retailers are actively and aggressively competitive. It’s good for consumers, it’s good for the food business. I wish that more retailers would approach business this way – instead of just building their boxes and hoping that people will come, they ought to be going to the customer, looking for unorthodox locations where they can make a difference.

But I’m also fascinated by this trend because so many mainstream retailers will have stores in one region of the country that won’t look all that different from stores in an entirely different area. There is little that shouts out “local” about their design, décor or product selection. It is lowest common denominator retailing…and it’s a shame. Because as airports are demonstrating – and I think we’d all agree that none of us would have expected this level of innovation from US airports – there are always new ways to attract, entice and keep the customer.

For MorningNewsBeat Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
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