Many airports in the United States operate multiple stores and restaurants; however, many hardly know the people behind these businesses or how they got such prime real estate.
Morgan first entered the airport arena as a consultant for the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority and later developed an interest in airport concessions. After five years of management consulting, she shifted her focus to solely owning concessions and launched Pen & Prose Boutique as a kiosk at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) in 1996.
Five years after launching her first retail location, she struck a partnership with HMSHost, where she has been able to jointly bid, win, and operate food and beverage, as well as news and gift locations, within airports.
Today, Morgan runs independently and in conjunction with HMSHost multiple locations in National, Dulles, and BWI Airports. She operates Starbucks at both DCA and Washington Dulles International Airport, as well as several restaurants in both airports. Additionally, she has operated concessions at Philadelphia International Airport.
“Success in the airport environment is all about being as strategic and as competitive as possible, and daring to be different,” Morgan explained how the airport scene has changed over the last two decades to Travel Market Insider; a strategy she believes is critical to success.
“Going back 25 years, the airport mall concept was very new, and wide open. When I first came into DCA, nearly all the retailers were large national operators, like Victoria’s Secret, Kay’s Jewelers, Bath & Body Works, The Gap, and Gymboree, these were the core. It was felt that these types of stores would be a huge success in airports.”
Despite finding success, Morgan says airport retailing can be challenging and the entry barriers have become more higher than they were in the past. She notes that the costs of operations have gone up, and there are many regulations, in addition to smaller groups of competitors.
“Not only do you need to be more strategic, but you also need to be able to be competitive, not just as a DBE, and not just as a small business, but on a much larger scale,” she pointed out in an interview with Travel Market Insider.
Despite the challenges, Morgan says with good concepts and the ability to withstand challenges, one can become successful in the airport arena.
Using Pen & Rose to buttress her point, she noted that her first store started as stationery and writing instruments. Today, it has evolved into a larger product, highlighting that it complements pens and stationery.