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Avila Transforms the Way We Think of Airport Retail

By Marina I. Jokic

When one thinks of airport retail shops, nothing particularly unique comes to mind. In fact, you imagine identical, nondescript coffee mugs, stuffed teddy bears, and t-shirts save for the city or state logo.

John and Kathleen Avila, Owners of the retail chain, note that historically, airport retail has not been able to forge a distinctive identity for itself. For that very reason, they saw a very ripe business opportunity to capitalize on this deficiency. "You couldn't necessarily tell what city you were in based on the product selection. Same t-shirt designs with a different city name," they point out.

Avila Retail strives to transform the generic airport shopping experience. The Avila's chose to find their retailing business at airports in particular because, after all, they are the gateway to states and cities, welcoming millions of visitors per year.

Moreover, when travelers enter an airport for the first time, albeit most of them are rushing to catch their flights or collect their luggage, they still form a perception of the place and a local feel. Having distinctive stores at airports is a way to represent the culture of that city, to allow visitors to experience a little piece of the local heritage through art, clothing, food, and other activities.

The Avila's started their business in 1978, and has operated Casa de Avila for thirty years. From its initial success, Avila was able to win its first contract at the Albuquerque International Sunport airport in 1991, finding a niche for itself and ensuring its upward climb. Having access to hundreds of customers per day was a great advantage which propelled the business forward quickly.

They proudly point out that the Avila Retail stores are the top performing specialty stores in the Denver, Phoenix, Albuquerque, and San Francisco airports.  Looking to the future, they say, Avila is slated for continuous expansion, having grown to twenty stores already.

People flock to Avila's stores not only for the high quality gifts and souvenirs. The customer service is something that The Avila's see as central in ensuring the continued success of the business. "Our staff at the Albuquerque Airport is exceptional, they act like they own the place and take great care of the customer, the stores, and serve as ambassadors to the area," they say. People also love the wide selection of unique local jewelry, artistic pieces, food and clothing available at Avila stores.

The store experience is customer-centric. Their Earth Spirit has the feel of an artist's studio- eclectic, intriguing, and idiosyncratic. The Greetings from New Mexico store likewise focuses on regional arts and crafts with a wide range of products, including even furniture.  Their ABQ2GO kiosk located in the Southwest Airlines gate area is your last chance to buy New Mexico-inspired gifts before exiting the terminal.

"We want them to be surprised and delighted.  We want to have the local items they've been looking for but couldn't find or introduce local products they never knew about," they add in regard to their customers.

Some of the most popular items in the New Mexico stores include the Los Poblanos Lavender hand salve, Peyote Bird Designs and Navajo jewelry, Guerilla Graphix Art t-shirts, and folk art.

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