By Land, Sea and Air -- The store comes to the customer Bringing the store to the customer is not a new merchandising concept. Its roots go back thousands of years, when camel caravans crisscrossed deserts bearing both luxuries and staples to waiting buyers. In Medieval cities and towns, wooden carts rumbled through narrow, cobblestoned streets, carrying coal for the hearth and toting cloth to be made into garments.

And, during the first half of the 20th century, motorized vehicles became familiar neighborhood sights, delivering produce and dairy products to homes.

With the age of flight came airport duty-free shops. Here, travelers can stock up on luxury items carrying prices devoid of taxes and duties.

The modern shopping center premiered in the 1920s when J.C. Nichols of Kansas City, Mo., developed a shopping district away from a downtown. Shopping centers, which have come to vary greatly in size and tenant mix, are by no means the only distribution avenue available to retailers today.

Catalog merchants have already figured out to the hundredth of an inch how to appeal to the armchair shopper. Toll roads and turnpikes have travel plazas for purchase of gasoline, food, souvenirs and travel needs. Museum shops do a brisk business in products reproduced from their own and other's collections of artwork, sculpture and jewelry.

INStore has chosen five examples of alternate site retailers that have opened profitable windows of retail opportunity by literally putting the store in the path of the customer. They are: * West Virginia's Tamarack Cultural Arts Center, * Home Turf Sports Bar at McCarren International Airport in Las Vegas, * Science Fiction Zone in the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel, * London Fog's Weather Store at Pittsburgh International Airport and Union Station in Washington, D.C., and * SeaVision's interactive television systems designed for cruise ships.

High-tech technology, combined with NFL memorabilia, defines the Home Turf Sports Bar, located in McCarren International Airport on Concourse C in Las Vegas.

Associates in Architecture & Design Ltd. (AAD), Scottsdale, Ariz., in conjunction with Host Marriott Services Corp. and the National Football League, gave the themed facility a neighborhood tavern feel by upgrading the existing bar facility with a state-of-the-art sports bar/retail/snack venue.

A 4-ft.-by-4-ft. video screen and multiple monitors throughout the bar offer a clear view of the sports action. The 900 sq. ft. dining area is organized into more intimate seating areas through level changes and open partitions. A 300 sq. ft. retail shop features apparel and gift items from NFL teams, including footballs and team jerseys.

Science Fiction Zone integrates lights, sound and interactivity along with its X-Files mugs, Star Trek movie scripts and an attention-grabbing logo imbedded in the middle of the floor. The 635 sq. ft., gift shop's design, created by Schafer Associates, Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., complements the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel's SpaceQuest Casino.

To create an "outta this world" shopping experience, Schafer chose a metallic cable system for perimeter fixturing, metallic-finished fixtures, a back videowall showing science fiction movies and computer-animated videos, and, located near the cashwrap, the virtual reality game Rebel Assault II from Star Wars.

The Science Fiction Zone logo features a light source generated from behind the cashwrap that causes the fiber optic "O" of the "Zone" to glow to yellow; the circumference of the circle slowly lights to yellow, brightens, and then bleeds to purple, revealing the entire logo.

London Fog's two prototype stores at transportation hubs appear under its new brand Weather Store, part of the company's strategy to target its rain and cool-weather merchandise to the traveler. Both the Pittsburgh International Airport and Union Station in Washington, D.C., stores opened in late 1996.

The Weather Store sells London Fog's trademark raincoats, as well as cold-weather accessories like scarves and gloves, and ancillary items like weather books. London Fog is studying the activity patterns at both units as it evaluates the opportunity to open more Weather Stores at transportation hubs and possibly malls.

London Fog executives in collaboration with the designers at Fitch Inc., Boston, decided that the concept could be broad enough to encompass rugged clothing like sweatshirts and other activewear. Other brands will be sold in the store, but the long-term goal is to make the enterprise a vertical, private-label operation.

The Weather Store has television monitors broadcasting current weather dispatches from around the world and satellite maps that show approaching fronts and rain. These monitors are visible from concourses and walkways, helping to draw customers into the stores.

The Nature Company is the newestaddition to SeaVision, which offersshore excursion preview andpurchase to cruise passengers.

The Nature Company is the newest addition to a retailing menu aimed at cruising consumers who desire shore excursion preview and purchase, room service, gaming, movies-on-demand and retailing.

"Cruise passengers are some of the most affluent shoppers in the world," says David Gould, SeaVision's vice president of sales and marketing.

SeaVision, a division of Allin Communications Corp., develops, installs and operates interactive television systems designed specifically for cruise ships. It claims to be the largest interactive network, reaching an estimated 1 million viewers as of January 1997. Resorts and hotels can also subscribe to SeaVision.

The retailing menu currently lists six participants: All Stuffed Up, The Thornberry Collection, Perry Ellis Watches, Wenger Swiss Army Gift Collection, Bobby Jones Sportswear and The Nature Company. More than 50 items will be offered initially by newcomer The Nature Company, from moderately priced gifts to high-end telescopes. Edward Strobin, president and CEO of The Nature Company, says that interactivity is vital in reaching consumers.

"It won't replace our core business of stores or catalogs," Strobin says, "but it will provide another avenue of consumer accessibility."

Tamarack Cultural Arts Center showcases a statewide collection of handmade crafts, art and cuisine. Located in Beckley, W.Va., the $15.5 million, 59,000 sq. ft. building contains displays of artisan artworks, working artist studios, a 200-seat performing arts theater, a 250-seat restaurant featuring a variety of West Virginia foods, and herb and sculpture gardens.

The layout, interiors, lighting and signage, designed by The Chute Gerdeman Group, Columbus, Ohio, are augmented by large-scale photo graphics of West Virginia landscapes that are accompanied by artisan quotes. The food court area features cabinetry from local woodworkers. Tabletops are inlaid with custom artwork

The Tamarack logo, which appears throughout the center on signage, brochures, promotional products and the center's signature dinnerware, reflects traditional quilt patterns as well as a stylization of the architectural design of the building.

Vilma Barr is a New York-based freelance writer specializing in the retail market.