After a hectic week of meetings, travel and entertaining I found myself leaving the house for the airport in the early hours of Sunday morning en route to Turin via Frankfurt. Italy is one of my most favourite of destinations, so I was looking forward to the journey and as ever my head was full of the agenda for the next few days. I duly arrived at the airport at just before 4am allowing plenty of time to go through the usual security processes. I was starting to relax when I realised that I had previously no opportunity to look for a birthday present for my wife. So, what better way to spend some downtime at the airport, than go shopping!

Leaving the security area I entered the recently refurbished retail area. Wow! A really superb department store by any standards, well lit and enticing the visitor with high quality presentations of branded goods at every turn. This was going to be enjoyable and with so much choice I should easily be able to find just the right gift. I was surprised how busy the area was at such an early hour of the morning but like me I suppose it was a good way for travellers to fill an hour whilst waiting for the flight. Potential customers were looking eagerly through the items in the retail wonderland but most appeared to be leaving empty handed. Perhaps the recession had hit harder than I imagined.

I browsed through the well known names DKNY, Versace, Prada, and Guerlain picking up items that caught my eye. Would this suit my wife’s personality…I really could do with some assistance. Glancing around it appeared that no one was available to help at that time. No problem, they were probably busy with other customers and would appear very shortly to assist.

I continued to browse; Clinique, Estée Lauder, Yves St Laurent all beautifully packaged and presented but still no one to assist. I suppose I could just help myself taking the item to the till if the goods that I was interested in were not in security cabinets. Looking around I wondered where the pay points were situated. I continued on my quest to find the ideal present for the one I love and the opportunity presented itself to me, handbags! A fine presentation of designer handbags from Radley of London and yes, there was a lady completing what I presumed to be a stocktake, she may have been a sales assistant but I wasn’t certain. I browsed the bags carefully inspecting the items I thought would please my wife, finally reducing my selection to three designs. Beautifully made but very different styling, so I wanted to learn from a female perspective what would be the most suitable? I turned to the lady whom I presumed to be the sales assistant to ask for guidance but the opportunity had departed along with the assistant.

This was becoming very frustrating and I then noticed other customers wandering around the retail area some with items in their hands, either looking for assistance or the pay point area. Somewhat frustrated I continued on my quest searching through the numerous well designed and beautifully presented sectors plying luxury goods from all quarters of the world. Still no sign of any sales assistants. Wandering into a section displaying male cosmetics, Givenchy, Calvin Klein and Hugo Boss I noticed a group of three ladies talking to a gentleman dressed in black. There was no doubt about it….a sales assistant!  I knew this to be so because he was providing recommendations to the ladies on what to buy for their men.

This was I must say quite a surprise as for nearly an hour I had been browsing in the retail area I had not been approached by one single member of the sales team and was convinced by now that they were all members of the camouflage club. The gentleman in question was well dressed in black, polite, friendly and extremely helpful though I must say that nothing on his person indicated he was part of the sales team save for a small security badge clipped to his belt. He offered to assist in anyway possible in order to find a suitable gift. Sadly, I had run out of time and had to go to the gate to take my flight. I did however ask the question, “Where are all the sales assistants”? “Oh we only have a skeleton staff to cover the retail area in the early hours the others do not start their shift until 05.45 sir” came the reply.

I left somewhat bemused and disappointed after such great expectations. It is quite understandable to employ a skeleton staff in those quieter times but I and many others that morning could have provided them with a sale. I wonder how many other passengers have the same experience over the course of a year, and how much is lost in sales? C’est la vie, Frankfurt here I come, Euros in hand and I am sure, I will find someone there to relive me of them!

Shopper viewpoint: Imagine being told about an organisation spending millions of pounds on delivering a truly exciting and engaging retail emporium that opened from early in the morning till late at night, which catered for the shopping needs and wants of almost twenty million travellers. Imagine, then being told that at times, you couldn’t find anyone to help you make purchase and take your money!

Is Manchester Airport Retail missing some simple retail basics and customer payment options? We think so.

Anonymous Shopper for: The Market Creative, Manchester

For more details contact: graham@themarketcreative.com