Kristi Elliott and her family have been operating Hummingbird Hollow Gifts inside the Juneau International Airport for roughly the last 10 years, but now as their contract is up for renewal this September, Elliott isn’t so sure she’s ready to put in another bid after learning of the airport’s plans for relocating and reshaping the gift shop.
The airport gift shop was moved into a temporary space in January 2020 during the early stages of the airport’s remodeling. Elliott said that while the airport has yet to share the exact square footage that has been allocated for retail, the airport board has presented plans to move forward with a kiosk/cart retail concept, which Elliott said would dramatically limit the number of products she can sell, which then cuts down on her overall revenue.
“The airport’s decision to change the retail concept of course affects us financially but more so I am deeply saddened,” Elliott said. “We have owned and operated this business for over 10 years. My kids, although in college and moved out, had all worked there throughout their high school years. Many of our kids’ friends we had employed. Financially and sentimentally this will be a big loss for us.”
Airport manager Patty Wahto said in an email that the gift shop is not closing, but rather the contract term and the maximum contract renewal years will soon be up for re-solicitation of requests for proposals.
“The current contract is extended through September 2023, at which time a new contract will be awarded to the successful proposer,” Wahto said in an email. “The Airport is currently under solicitation of proposals (RFP). All interested parties are encouraged to propose on this concession. This process is used for most of our concession contracts for open public process. This procurement is handled through the CBJ Purchasing Dept.”
Wahto further stated that the RFP #23-146 went out Feb. 14, and was originally set to close on March 15, but as a result of Elliott voicing concerns at a recent airport board meeting, that deadline has been extended to Wednesday, March 22.
The position of the airport is that these changes are necessary to optimize revenue for the airport, reduce travelers’ stress, and offer a better shopping experience. The airport’s business operations manager and CBJ senior buyer Shelly Klawonn wrote the following in the RFP outlining what the airport is looking for from the new proposed concept.
“The Airport seeks to re-develop the retail concept, and optimize concession revenues in support of its mission as a transportation hub for Juneau and Southeast Alaska. The Airport has modernized its facilities to meet the expectations of travelers and the public. However, retail space is not available for the traditional ‘storefront’ model, and alternative concepts that work well in passenger circulation areas should be proposed instead, such as retail carts & stands, kiosks, modular Retail Merchandising Units, etc. The Airport wishes to create a retail environment that promotes the businesses of Juneau and Southeast Alaska. The objective is to create a passenger-friendly airport, and partner with tenants to be effective and cost efficient within the space constraints.”
Elliott said that she needs more space to be profitable and without that space, she’s unsure as to whether she’ll be submitting a proposal to renew her contract. Before construction was underway at the airport, and the gift shop had a bigger storefront to operate within, Elliott said she was far more profitable because of the wider variety of products she could offer, which in turn appealed to more travelers.
“The airport’s point in reducing travelers’ stress is that a kiosk could carry all those products to reduce travelers’ stress along with the other long list of products. The better shopping experience,” Elliott said. “I have no idea how a kiosk can compete with a better shopping experience than what Hummingbird Hollow offers.”