Charlotte airport to seek proposals for stores

 The Charlotte Business Journal’s staff writer, Susan Stabley, reports the contract to operate Charlotte/Mecklenburg International Airport’s retail stores may soon be up for grabs.

Aviation director Jerry Orr told Charlotte City Council on Monday that he wanted to split up the existing deal with concessionaire HMSHost Corp. The airport’s food and beverage and retail contracts had previously been held by two separate companies until HMSHost acquired both, Orr says.

The Bethesda, Md.-based company now controls 71 airport spaces. HMSHost operates in 115 airports worldwide, with annual revenue exceeding $2.6 billion, according to the company. Orr wants to renew HMSHost’s food and beverage contract for five years. But the airport plans to terminate its deal with HMSHost for retail stores and put out a request for proposals. “In my opinion, it’s the best deal for the airport and the industry,” Orr says.

Retail sales at the airport averaged $1,476 per square foot in early 2008, above the national average. Overall, retail concessions generated $46.9 million in sales in fiscal 2008, which ended June 30. Of that, the airport brought in $7.25 million in revenue.

Orr’s plan is to keep the airport’s existing eateries during an upcoming terminal expansion. That’s going to require moving around some locations. “It’s very messy,” he told council members, adding it wouldn’t be fair for a new vendor to invest in a space and then lose it because of construction.

Orr values the food and beverage contract at $4 million plus a share of sales revenue. Total food and beverage sales were $93.9 million in 2008, generating $15.5 million for the airport.

As US Airways Group Inc. has dropped flights, the airport has seen a decline in retail sales, while food and beverage has been flat. Some specialty stores have been opening an hour later and closing an hour earlier.

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