On the menu at Manchester Airport

Michael Murphy-Pyle, head of media at Manchester Airport, tells us more about the sense of place strategy behind the ongoing transformation of the gateway’s retail offerings.

Manchester in the UK has always had a very clear sense of its own identity. Its culture, history, architecture, and attitude are all unique and things that its people are rightly proud of.

At Manchester Airport we are proud to serve the people of the North as a whole with more flights to more destinations than any airport outside of London. But we never want to lose sight of the fact that we are in Manchester and of Manchester.

Some aspects of international travel are necessarily uniform. Familiarity and predictability are, to some extent, necessary in travel hubs to help ease the stress of travel.

But, at the same time, we don’t want people to lose sight of the fact that they are in Manchester. That’s why a key element of the £1.3bn Manchester Airport Transformation Programme (MAN-TP) has been a focus on identity and a sense of place.

The programme itself centres on our Terminal 2. It was announced in 2015 and is revolutionising both the passenger and colleague experience at the airport. It involves doubling the capacity of Terminal 2 so that it can accommodate 70% of the airport’s passengers.

The first phase of the project was an extension of the existing facility which opened in 2021 and the second phase is the redevelopment of old part of the terminal so that it matches the new part.

The new part of the terminal has already been awarded the prestigious, UNESCO-backed Prix Versailles for its architecture and design and, once complete, the whole project will provide everyone who uses the airport with an experience that is in line with the very best airports around the world.

The retail offer is a key part of what we’re doing through MAN-TP. In Terminal 2 now, you’ll find all the things you expect in a major international airport; high-end duty free, recognisable high street brands and familiar food and drink names.

But you’ll also find several of Manchester’s favourite local brands plus a focus on regional produce and products. And that hasn’t happened by accident.

In tendering for the outlets that are already in the International Departure Lounge we placed significant value on provenance.

The result is that alongside those brands that will be familiar to you wherever you’re from, are brands that Mancunians and Northerners know and love.

As you arrive in Terminal 2’s International Departure Lounge and pass through duty free three of the first things you see – set against a huge honeycomb light installation that is a reference to Manchester’s famous bee icon – are local favourite Italian restaurant San Carlo flanked by bars operated by Manchester-based brewers Seven Bro7ers and Joseph Holt.

Both outlets – Seven Bro7ers’ Amber Alehouse and Joseph Holt’s Bridgewater Exchange – have their own microbreweries meaning you can drink some of Manchester’s finest beers just a few feet from where they’ve been brewed.

Around the corner you’ll find Archie’s, the incredibly Instagrammable and Manchester-based burger joint as well as Pot Kettle Black, another local chain specialising in quality coffee and café type food.

Between them, these brands mean that if you’re from the area travelling away on holiday or on business you can visit brands you know and love and have a real affinity with.

It also means that if you’re not from the area and you’re maybe travelling back from a UK holiday, you’ll be exposed to some of Manchester and the North’s own brands, meaning greater exposure for them and money into the regional economy.

We’re continuing that work as we look to fill the units in the side of Terminal 2 that is currently in development and will open next year. There are a total of 27 units that we’re looking to fill with a range of retail and food and beverage.

In the tendering process for these units we’ve stuck to the ethos that led the first phase; by keeping a focus on locally based outlets and those that favour local produce and products.

Although we’re not in a position to reveal the names of the retailers and food and beverage outlets quite yet, we can say that not only will there be more local names alongside some stellar national and international brands, we’re also going to be introducing a ‘market hall’ style concept.

Like many cities and towns around the country, Manchester is home to a growing number of market hall style offerings where a group of different outlets will be based around a central area allowing groups of customers to eat from different places while still sitting together.

They provide a great platform for smaller, locally based retailers to operate and we’re looking forward to implementing the concept.

Ultimately all this work on maintaining a local focus provides a range of advantages and upsides. It means Manchester Airport will always feel like Manchester’s airport, which is important to us, it means our passengers see the brands they have real connections with and it gives those brands international exposure.

Mark Flanagan, the owner of Pot Kettle Black, recently talked to us about the effect having an airport branch has had on his business.

He said that from opening 10 years ago in a small premises in Manchester’s Barton Arcade, their expansion and the opening of the airport branch has led to international visitors going to their city centre branches because they’ve been to the one in the airport.

In a nutshell, this is the kind of thing we’re trying to achieve through our retail and food and beverage strategy.

As an airport our priority is serving the people of the North. This doesn’t just mean getting passengers to the places they want to go to and giving them a great experience as they do it meaning they can start their holiday here, it also means helping local businesses to thrive where we can.

We plan to continue with this strategy as we move forward and will carry on looking to work with innovative, exciting and regionally based brands at every opportunity.

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