Interview: Brand opportunities knock as upscale Loaded Retail concept opens in private jet terminals

INTRODUCTION: An intriguing and incremental travel retail market for brands is emerging, as Private Jet Media (PJM) hones its ‘Loaded Retail’ operation with partner AviaVIP across three private jet terminals in Spain.

The company has revealed to The Moodie Davitt Report global ambitions to take the concept to similar terminals – all focused on wealthy consumers – elsewhere in Europe, and across the Middle East, Africa, Asia and North America. 

Our Senior Business Editor Mark Lane explores the thinking behind Loaded Retail and the opportunity it presents for brands with PJM CEO James Rolls and Managing Director Victor Veselov.

The global private jet market size is anticipated to grow in value from US$43.97 billion in 2023 to US$62.66 billion by 2030, at a CAGR of 5.19%, according to figures from Fortune Business Insights. Given travel hubs’ strong associations with retail across the world, and the wealthy traveller the private aviation market attracts, it is surprising to discover that shopping is scarcely linked to the global private jet sector.

The original Loaded Retail space inside an AviaVIP-operated private jet terminal in Palma de Mallorca, Spain

That is set to change, with UK-headquartered Private Jet Media (PJM) aiming to blaze a trail in private aviation travel retail. Together with its partner AviaVIP, the company – which made its name in the global private jet digital advertising market – has made its first moves to fill that gap, opening three stores at private jet terminals (or Fix-Based Operators, FBOs) in Spain under the brand name ‘Loaded Retail’.

For the uninitiated, FBOs are typically standalone buildings with their own parking, reception desk, passenger facilities and, in most cases, on-site security, immigration and customs. Some private jet terminals are located at airports dedicated to general aviation (i.e. non-scheduled flights). Examples some readers will know include Biggin Hill and Farnborough airports in the London area, Le Bourget Airport in Paris, and Teterboro and White Plains airports in New York.

Landside at the private jet terminal in Malaga (above) with the Loaded Retail space pictured below

However, the vast majority of private jet terminals are located at commercial airports. “For example, there are five private jet terminals at London Stansted Airport alone,” notes PJM Media Director Victor Veselov. “All five will share a landing strip and queue up for the take-off together with commercial (scheduled) flights.”

Private Jet Media’s roots in travel retail

Private Jet Media was spun out of the now defunct parent company, Travelling Media International (TMI), in 2017, with its focus on Out of Home (OOH) advertising in private jet terminals.

TMI had spent nearly 30 years working with 35 global airlines, creating non-aviation revenue from airline magazines, inflight video and providing duty free support.

Its first client back in the 1980s was Virgin Atlantic, and the first client to advertise in private jet terminals was UBS Bank in 2003.

PJM now has an OOH advertising network covering over 130 private jet terminals mainly via large digital screens. It also focuses on product placements, lounge sponsorships and the large format branding of passenger terminals and hangars.

Its clients include many luxury and high-end brands in watches & jewellery, fashion, property, banking, aviation and cars as well as business-to-business advertisers. Among them are Cartier, Piaget, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Jacob & Co, Maybach, Bentley, Range Rover, Christie’s International Real Estate, NetJets, Jetcraft, Bombardier, Boeing and Textron.

PJM’s partnership with AviaVIP started in 2019 when the company became the exclusive advertising agency for all FBOs operated by Aviapartner Executive (the former name of AviaVIP) in Europe. Towards the end of that year, PJM and Aviapartner won a tender issued by Spanish airport company Aena to establish and manage a retail area in the private jet terminal in Palma de Mallorca.

“The prospect of running a permanent shop in a private jet terminal was both exciting and scary at the same time, as nothing of its kind existed in Spain before,” says PJM CEO James Rolls. “Due to COVID, it wasn’t until 2021 that we started bringing the project to life. In the same year, we won retail rights for private jet terminals in Ibiza and then Malaga in 2022, both in partnership with AviaVIP.”

Between these three Spanish locations, the Loaded Retail stores cater to more than 100,000 private jet flyers annually. This gives a hint towards the potential scale of a worldwide FBO retail market, where PJM – which has offices in London, Dubai, Paris, Fort Worth and Johannesburg – already has a foothold through its advertising interests in more than 130 private jet terminals spread across Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia Pacific and North America.

“The Loaded Retail project pursues three main objectives,” explains Rolls. “Firstly, it’s an additional non-aviation revenue stream for the FBO operators, such as AviaVIP, on top of revenue generated by PJM through advertising.

Branding for Private Jet Media client Piaget in a private jet terminal lounge in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

“Secondly, it’s a great opportunity for small high-end and luxury brands that don’t necessarily have large marketing budgets to still get exposure to their target audience.

“Thirdly, it addresses the lack of any retail facilities in the FBOs that many of the private jet passengers, as well as pilots and crew, are in need of, be it a present for friends and family, a replacement for lost sunglasses or simply a snack/beverage that can be consumed onboard.”

Early brands involved in the Loaded Retail project include Ibizkus Wines, Lamborghini Wines, Copenhagen Distillery, Champagne Moutardier, San Mayol Wines, Black River Caviar, Dr Levy, Boadicea the Victorious, Maui Jim, DNNA, Salt of Ibiza and Flor de Sal d’Es Trenc.

Veselov – who describes sales from Loaded Retail to date as “very encouraging”, although he wouldn’t be drawn on the numbers – outlines the main criteria used for selecting these brands. They must be high-quality; they offer limited, small and medium production; and have relevance to private jet flyers and locations where the shops are located, for example, sunglasses in a summer resort destination. “We also try to work with local brands where possible,” he adds.

Luxury brands are nicely presented in this Loaded Retail space

Adding retail to existing FBO terminal buildings begs the question of how they are incorporated into often limited space.

“No private jet terminal is the same,” answers Rolls. “Unlike commercial scheduled flight airports, where a retail area is designed as part of the terminal, Loaded Retail has to be ‘retrofitted’ into the operational private jet terminals, as the vast majority of them never had a retail presence before.”

This inevitably means that key elements of the retail design are modular in nature. The fixtures are designed by Wanda Creative (which was involved in the design of the duty free shops at Qatar’s Hamad International Airport) and built by German shop construction specialist Bohnacker. “The display units can adjust to pretty much any layout and maximise the floor/wall space available, no matter how small,” says Rolls.

PJM is currently in talks with private jet terminals in the UK, France, Singapore, Ghana and the US about introducing Loaded Retail, with potential retail projects in the UK and Singapore at the most advanced stage.

The Loaded Retail space at the private jet terminal in Ibiza

“Any of the 130-plus private jet terminals that are part of the PJM network could be next,” states Veselov. “There is plenty of interest from our FBO partners who see Loaded Retail not only as an additional revenue stream but also as a vehicle to enhance passenger experience. But we want it to be perfect before we roll out the concept globally.

“We are at the very beginning of this exciting journey. We are no retail specialists – not yet anyway – and whilst we understand the behaviour of private jet passengers and have in-depth knowledge of building luxury brands, it remains a massive learning experience for us.

“Spain is the test ground for the entire concept. This is where we are honing our skills to see what works and what doesn’t before we can start replicating it in other territories. There are still many things to try, test and improve.”

Hangar branding for Private Jet Media client Circle at a private jet terminal in Samedan, Switzerland

So how is PJM communicating with potential shoppers, other than in-terminal, to generate business? “At the moment, communication is done exclusively through the private jet terminals,” explains Rolls. “We do plan to have an app and online presence for passengers to use, for example to pre-order products to be delivered to the terminal before the customer’s arrival.

“Coming from an advertising business, we recognise that building brand awareness among potential clientele is the key to success. Luckily, in our case, we have a global advertising network in the private jet terminals that could be easily used to support the Loaded Retail platform.”

The aspect of private aviation most likely to attract potential brand partner attention is the passenger profile.

The ExecuJet Middle East private jet terminal in Dubai is among Private Jet Media’s advertising clients

“Private aviation has always been part and parcel of the life of HNWIs [High Net Worth Individuals] and, more importantly, C-Suite travellers and business owners,” observes Veselov. “The latter represent 60-70% of the entire private jet flyer market. For example, over 90% of the Fortune 500 companies in the US use private aviation, hence it often being referred to as business aviation.”

While COVID-19 may have temporarily halted the PJM retail masterplan, the pandemic has perversely been a key factor in private aviation’s recovery and growth rate in recent years, as Veselov explains.

“Travelling on regular airlines, which is the only alternative, is extremely inflexible and time-consuming – delays and cancellations are currently a norm – and exposes a passenger to extra health risks. On average a passenger in private aviation has 27 touch points in the private jet terminal versus 700 in a commercial airport.

A 98-inch digital advertising screen operated on behalf of advertisers by Private Jet Media at the Harrods Aviation private jet terminal at London Luton Airport. These screens could be used to promote the Loaded Retail brand.

“All this pushes HNWIs, even those who were content with flying commercially, to use private aviation. This is why many charter companies, such as NetJets, FlexJet, Luxaviation, Vista Jet, and others, saw a dramatic increase in the number of new users since the onset of the pandemic.”

Veselov concedes the private aviation market cooled down slightly in 2023 compared to a record-breaking 2022. But he notes that the flight figures are still higher than in 2019 and considerably higher than commercial aviation in recovery terms, with many airports across the world, particularly in Asia Pacific, yet to get close to pre-pandemic levels.

Rolls predicts further momentum for the industry. “We believe that going forward, private aviation will continue its growth globally, especially with the advances that the industry is making in sustainable fuel, eVTOL and electric engine technologies.”

Private Jet Media Managing Director Victor Veselov (left) in conversation with The Moodie Davitt Report Senior Business Editor Mark Lane at Carlton Beach during the 2023 TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes last October

He concludes: “With exciting growth in prospect, our ambition is to grow Loaded Retail into a global network of in-FBO Terminal shops across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and North America.”

An ambitious goal but given PJM’s extensive footprint in the private aviation market one that appears eminently attainable. ✈

Food & Beverage The Magazine eZine