LAX Adds a Little Magic

Nicole Nelson
Published in: 

Basketball icon Earvin "Magic" Johnson is among many Angelenos who think it's time to "add a little 'Magic'" to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

With terminal infrastructure dating back to the early 1980s, many of the retail and food/beverage outlets at LAX have remained essentially static for nearly 25 years. The consecutive award of nine new concessions packages, however, is expected to refresh terminals 4, 5, 7 and 8 beyond illusion.

One of the stars in LAX's new lineup is Magic Johnson Sports, a collaboration between Hudson Group and the Lakers legend himself. As the first in a possible series of locations, the LAX store is expected to open in Terminal 5 later this year.

"My goal has always been to create new jobs and opportunities for the community, and joining the airport marketplace will allow me to continue that," says Johnson, chairman and CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises (MJE). "I have always been a big dreamer, and this venture is confirmation that dreams really do come true."

Hudson Group president & CEO Joe DiDomizio says the partnership with MJE served as an anchor to help reel in 21 news, gift, book and specialty retail stores. Together, the collection will total 20,716 square feet of prime selling space in terminals 4, 5, 7 and 8.


Project: Concessions Redevelopment

Location: Los Angeles Int'l Airport

Owner/Operator: Los Angeles World Airports

Awarded Concessionaires: Hudson Group, XpressSpa, HMSHost, Areas USA, Delaware North Companies

Pending Terminal Management Contract: Westfield

Est. Completion of Terminals 4, 5, 7 & 8: Nov. 2012

Est. Completion of Tom Bradley Int'l Terminal, Terminal 2 and Theme Building: Feb. 2013

"We discussed companies that we thought would bring the most value to this specific business, and we agreed that Magic Johnson Enterprises would be the ideal partner, though we had no assurance that a company and personality of their stature and renown would be interested in travel retailing," DiDomizio comments. "To our surprise and great delight, we discovered that MJE was as interested in developing this business model as we were."

More LA at LAX

In addition to Magic Johnson Sports, Hudson Group will usher in other Los Angeles-themed specialty retail concepts, including Rip Curl, See's Candies, The Mattel Experience, NBC/Universal Studios Store, Bartels' Harley-Davidson and Kitson, a trendy boutique known to be frequented by the "who's who" of Hollywood.

According to DiDomizio, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) made it "very clear" in its request for proposals that it wanted all the new stores to reflect Los Angeles culture, style and image. Hudson also sought to bring diversity, local business flavor and unique local character to the LAX concession program, adds DiDomizio. "That is why we went to great lengths to ensure that our concept mix and store branding was as local as could be," he explains.

Many of the bid packages were "very exciting," notes Debbie Bowers, deputy executive director of LAWA's Commercial Development Group. A food court package that replicates a famous downtown farmer's market is one much-anticipated element.

In addition to the direct lease concessions awards that are currently under phased development in terminals 4, 5, 7 and 8, LAX is also revamping retail and food/beverage options elsewhere in the airport. In February, LAWA was reviewing proposals from companies interested in a contract to serve as terminal commercial manager for terminals 1, 3 and 6. Responses to a request for proposals regarding a possible a duty-free shop are due by the first of April.

Meanwhile, Westfield has received board approval to become terminal commercial manager in Tom Bradley International Terminal, Terminal 2, and the Theme Building, an iconic symbol of LAX that offers a 360-degree view of the entire airport.

"Westfield is committed to delivering an iconic, world-class airport experience for LAX," notes Catharine C. Dickey, the company's executive vice president of corporate communications. "We value the LAWA board's support and look forward to working with the city council to finalize the contract."

While awaiting approval from the city council, the LAWA Board awarded a services contract to Westfield so it could begin design work for the project. The services contract ensures Westfield reimbursement for design work if it's not awarded the contract by the city council, explains Bowers. Ownership of the design work would revert to LAWA, she adds.

"The service contract helps us because Westfield was awarded the new Grand Hall in the Bradley West International Terminal we are building, and we need that to stay on schedule," Bowers notes.

Sizable investments by Westfield are expected to ready the premises for new concessionaires. "Our existing terminals are very dated," acknowledges Bowers. "So it is very exciting to have the airport freshened up across the board. I think it is good to see so many retail owners and restaurant owners from L.A. participate in the procurement of concessions. Having local venues in the airport is going to make a statement for people who are coming into Los Angeles."

In addition to giving the airport a facelift, concessions enhancements currently in the works are also expected to give LAX a much-needed revenue boost.

"We are expecting close to a 20-percent jump in revenue once everything is inline," Bowers says, noting that the across-the-board increase could be even higher with the addition of a new concessions core in the airport's Tom Bradley International Terminal. "I think it is going to be new, exciting, updated and relevant to today's market."


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