Howard Saunders   Oct 28, 2015   Uncategorized   1 Comment

Is this really the best you can do? Here at the South Terminal the jewel in the crown is…Nando’s. Yes, Nando’s. And the big anchor on the top floor is a dark and sticky Wetherspoons called The Flying F*** (or maybe it’s horse). As a nod to the twenty first century we have three grubby little internet booths. Yes, here you can pay for a session on THE INTERNET! Wow, I love THE INTERNET. At least it’s an escape from this hell hole. God forbid you just give us free, non-Boingo goose-chase access to THE INTERNET. What would we do with all that freedom? I dread to think!

Take a close look at this place, for what they have built here is a direct reflection of what they think of their customers…and that means you. This sub-Lakeside setting has been skilfully sculpted around what they think we want, none of this happened by accident. They sat with architects and consultants and negotiated hard with a range of tenants to bring you the mix that’s right for you. Not for them, you understand. Not for their wives or husbands, nor for their children. No, Gatwick is clearly aimed at other people’s children, the ones we avoid, the ones that shout at us in the street.

So let’s look at these customers: the fearless builders, arms full of Eastern symbolism and heads full of football, the little lavendered old ladies who rub their spotted hands in constant disapproval and chew their estuary vowels like seedless grapes. The pubescent parents laden with pushchairs and baby kit, the snub-nosed, borderline-obese teens, faces as sullen as X Factor rejects. Yes Gatwick, I too avoid these people but don’t you think we should give them something better than this? Can we not raise their expectations a tiny bit, or must they simply have another McDonalds and Cafe Rouge? Is there anyone left on Planet Shit that really believes Wondertree is an up and coming restaurant plucked from Chichester town square and not just a catering conglomerate’s cynical impersonation?

Are we not clever enough to give these ordinary, ‘hard working families’ a glimpse of something better before they land on Lanzarote? Let’s try and be helpful here. For a start we could have a gourmet burger bar, there are lots of great ones to choose from. And how about a John Lewis style restaurant, bright and contemporary, with an open kitchen and a small, daily, freshly prepared menu? Instead of the dark and dingy Flying F*** there could be an open bar with local ales, holiday cocktails and friendly barmen. There could even be an astro-turf picnic area and cinema screen where families can relax and enjoy their Pret sandwiches and takeaways.

I know I sound like a pipedreamer and you think my argument doesn’t ‘stack up’ but hang on a minute. You are the ones that want another runway! You are the guys that want to be taken seriously as the gateway to England!

So, be careful Gatwick that, like Tesco, you don’t just ‘give us what we want’. Tesco sank into a mire of its own making, grabbing desperately at Giraffe and Harris & Hoole at the last minute to make it look as if it was listening. Of course, it only dragged those down too.

Mediocrity has an immense gravity, especially when it fills the tills every night. What England needs is a vision, an uplifting, chest filling, brand showcase that makes us feel proud of our funny little island. Dear Gatwick, I know you can do better.

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About Howard Saunders

Howard has worked in retail design for over twenty five years. As a former Creative Director of Fitch, based in London, he was responsible for retail design and branding and for creating multi-disciplinary teams of architects, graphic designers, product designers and copywriters and making them work together! As an independent consultant Howard has worked closely with Marks & Spencer, Waitrose and Westfield, for over a decade, helping them develop new store designs and keeping them informed of the latest retail innovations and shifts in customer expectations. His work with Westfield, for example, culminated in the creation of the artisan Great Eastern Market at Westfield Stratford, Europe’s largest shopping centre, which opened in 2011 on London’s Olympic Park. Now based in New York, Howard’s current clients include CBRE, Claire’s Accessories, Consumer Goods Forum, Ebay, Johnson & Johnson, L’Occitane, Magento, Mothercare, Permira and Westfield World Trade Center. As an international speaker Howard’s talks are big, visual journeys across the world of retail. Provocative, challenging, brutally honest, evidence based and thoroughly entertaining.

One Comment

  1. Alex Says: November 5, 2015 9:22 am Reply

    Hi Howard,

    I just spoke to you yesterday at retail week interiors and following that, I thought id check out your website.

    Reading this article this morning has put a smile on my face, and I tend to agree with your arguments. I thought it might be worth shooting this link your way because this design project should be seen as the level that all public transportation environments should be aspiring to (in the UK at least). In fact, you almost definitely will be only too aware of this- but ill share it anyway:

    Gloucester Services Farmshop

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