While most of us aspire for nothing more during an airport layover than a quick coffee, a chair to collapse in, and perhaps a Wi-Fi zone to check e-mails, some intrepid travelers have enough time and energy to see layovers as a chance to shop till they drop, especially with the holidays just around the corner. 'Tis the season at London Heathrow, which almost seems like a giant shopping mall with an airport attached—and now offers personal shoppers to help travelers navigate its vast retail terrain.
At Heathrow, even the most dedicated shopper might find the prospect of going from terminal to terminal to find the perfect item in one of the airport's 84 shops somewhat daunting. To facilitate the browsing experience, Heathrow now offers a free service where your own multilingual personal shopper will collect items you've already reserved via the special airport shopping website and bring them to you at your terminal, or else advise you on other potential solutions. At the moment, selections are pulled from within the stores themselves, but there are plans to create dedicated "personal shopping lounges," which will help speed up the process.
The service was originally offered only to first-class passengers ordering from VIP lounges, and the price tags of many items reflect those swanky origins. Terminal 5 is particularly heavy on the luxury retailers, with outposts of brands like Cartier, Burberry, Prada, Tiffany, Bulgari, Alexander McQueen, and Gucci. Other terminals offers womens wear from similarly exclusive lines such as Hermés, Miu Miu, Mulberry, Ralph Lauren, and Valentino, while accessory providers include Bally, Coach, Dior, and Dolce & Gabbana. Stylish men and those who buy gifts for them are catered for at stores including Dunhill, Thomas Pink, and Hackett, while Omega watches, Nikon and Olympus cameras, and Beats by Dr. Dre help keep them supplied with bling and gadgetry. And everyone can find something tempting at the Apple store.
Happily, not everything is so high-end. British mid-market favorites like Zara, L.K. Bennett, Clarks, and Kurt Geiger are here, as well. And one reason the service has proved popular is because retailers offer items at lower prices than at their Central London stores (though this discount can be as little as 3 percent, behind that of most other European airports).
If the idea of trying to stuff one more item into your luggage is off-putting, you can opt to collect your purchase on your way back, if your return journey takes you through Heathrow, and British residents can even arrange to have the items delivered to their homes. So the next time you find out your flight has been delayed at Heathrow, don't think of it as a setback—consider it a shopping opportunity. To book a personal shopper, call 0870-850-2825 (UK) or +44 (0)121-410-5105 (from outside the UK).