Frankfurt International airport is the epitome of a major international hub airport • and not always in a good way. Terminal one is an outdated, 1970s sprawl of a building, with veritable hikes to some of the more far-flung gates. Terminal two on the other hand is a modern, manageably sized and bright facility. Both have plentiful shopping options, although nothing you would not find in a decent-sized downtown mall.
If there is one word for Frankfurt International airport, and for the majority of its shopping offer, it is ‘sterile’. The only notable exception was the old Dr Mueller’s Sex Shop which, while not to everyone’s tastes, at least added a sense of place to the airport • albeit that place was Bahnhofsviertel, Frankfurt’s red light district. Sadly, the store is now altogether less exciting. Under the name of Beate Uhse the videos, lingerie and (ahem) accessories remain, but the fascinating seediness, like the good doctor himself, is no more.
Enough of the negatives. What you’ll find at Frankfurt is a range of smart, modern stores offering everything to satisfy the modern passenger; just with no surprises.
Fashion stores from the mid-market to the ultra-premium abound, with a few interesting ones worth checking out if you are unfamiliar with the German retail scene • particularly handbag company Bree, children’s fashion store Pfüller Kidskonzept and the classic elegance of Porsche Design, which has one of its finest airport shops at Frankfurt. There are also several multi-brand fashion concepts which are well presented and well stocked, offering a ‘best of’ distillation of several trendy fashion labels. There are few airports with a better range of fashion stores.
Where the shopping at Frankfurt excels, beyond fashion, is in the core duty-free categories of liquor and beauty. The duty-free retailer Gebr Heinemann has long dominated retail scene at airports across Germany (and in recent years well beyond), and its size gives it a purchasing power that allows it to offer good prices, and regular special offers. Particularly for passengers travelling beyond the EU, there are good savings to be had on liquor, beauty and confectionery items • in fact the retailer guarantees savings of up to 30% compared to the German retail price on about 90% of its range.
These savings do not apply to the liquor or tobacco categories for passengers flying within Europe, but for all other products you will see just one price tag on the shelf, applicable to both intra- and extra-EU travellers. This sensible policy involves Heinemann offering all products except liquor and tobacco at tax-free prices, so passengers needn’t worry about whether they are eligible to purchase duty-free.
Heinemann, in particular in its new main shop at T1, does attempt to address the lack of character at the airport. The store is bright, modern and full of entertaining promotions, and there is even a nod to highlighting German products. But it is not enough to give the airport or its shops any real personality.
Unusually for many airport retail programmes, Frankfurt’s is well promoted on the airport website, so you can compare some • but not all - prices prior to travelling. And Heinemann also places an emphasis on service. You can pre-order your duty-free items and pick them up at the airport, saving valuable minutes, and if you are returning to Germany you can even pick up your purchases on your way back from the airport.
The retail offer may not be spellbinding at Frankfurt, but there is enough to keep you browsing if you are interested in fashion, liquor and beauty. And Heinemann’s price promise and its emphasis on good service mean that shopping for the core duty-free products is stress-free, efficient and generally good value.