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Airports' Holiday Retail Brisk, Unique

In the meantime, they're hitting that cycle at just the point where it converges with retail's calendar -- and they're doing it with some local flavor. In Portland, the city's mammoth book store Powell's has an airport outlet, as does clothing manufacturer Pendleton Woolen Mills and Beaverton, Ore.-based sportswear makers Columbia and Nike (NKE). At Boston's Logan International, local mainstays Black Dog, Vineyard Vines and Life Is Good all have stops along the concourse. Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History, meanwhile, has a branch of its museum store at O'Hare.

Bigger chains aren't willing to be left out of the mix. About five years ago, Best Buy (BBY) began installing automated kiosks in airports across the country to dispense smartphones, tablets, digital cameras, MP3 players, high-end headphones and other items. Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport is basically a sprawling upscale mall with shops for high-end labels including Michael Kors, Ermenegildo Zegna, Bulgari, Mont Blanc and Salvatore Ferragamo.

So why should travelers consider doing their holiday shopping along the concourses? For one, they're running out of excuses not to. That NCR Travel survey suggested that 45% more travelers would do their holiday shopping in these places if they would ship directly and not force them to take yet another carry-on. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is just one of the airports taking them up on that challenge by "offering to ship purchases of more than $50" for free.

Time management is obviously a plus, but there may be an even bigger benefit to getting gifts before you board or after you exit. When airports offer branches of local retailers, whole items are a tough find elsewhere; picking up an item can give your gift something that most retailers just can't. It's a small indication that you were thinking of someone else in your travels and thought enough of them to pick up a little something you couldn't just find in a local mall. It doesn't have to be an eight-foot, $1,200 plush pterodactyl or $200 blanket. It's just a way of telling someone they're on your mind even when they're not in your direct field of vision.

Airports are well aware of it, and are filling storefronts with local shops for the same reason they woo local brewers and restaurants to fill their eatery spaces. They want to stand out and give you a reason to spend your money there instead of some other place with the same stuff. Just by adding such places to the mix, airports are trying to convey that they're unique -- and that such difference has value. That's just as true under the Christmas tree or in a stocking as it is along the concourse or near the gate.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Jason Notte.

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Stock quotes in this article: BBY, NKE 
Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post,, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.

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