A new avenue for shopping has opened for travellers departing from Changi Airport.

It is online and it offers about 1,800 duty-free items, from chocolates and cosmetics to wines and watches. So, even before going to the airport, a departing passenger can get some retail therapy at the portal, which was launched yesterday.

With a click, he can make a purchase, give the terminal of his flight and pick up the goods at a designated spot before boarding the plane.

The new outlet is yet another bid by the Changi Airport Group to boost retail and dining spending at the three terminals.

These raked in a new high of more than $1.9 billion in the year ended March, an annual rise of 8.6 per cent, spokesman Ivan Tan told The Straits Times.

But the portal is more than just a convenience for time-strapped travellers, said Changi Airport senior vice-president for transit retail Ivy Wong.

"Online shopping is now a way of life for many people and a key sales channel for retailers worldwide," she added.

Changi is believed to be the first Asian airport with its own online shopping portal, although individual retailers at other airports offer a similar service.

Shops at London's Heathrow Airport allow travellers to reserve online the items they wish to buy before departing.

But payment and collection have to be done at the shop itself.

With the iShopChangi portal, which is on the Changi Airport Group's website, payment is made online and collection is done after checking in and at the iShopChangi counter in the transit area.

The portal took around two years to complete and is the latest in a slew of initiatives by Changi Airport to boost revenue from non-aeronautical sources, such as shop rents.

It also gets a slice of the shopping and dining receipts from the 350 shops at the terminals.

Last year, in a tie-up with merchants, it began selling tickets and vouchers to places of interest, restaurants and shops.

Growing such non-aviation revenue is "critical" to maintain Changi's competitiveness as an air hub, Mr Tan said.

The money is used to subsidise aeronautical charges, like airline fees, he added.

Aviation experts say the new portal and other steps taken to boost non-aeronautical earnings could give Singapore an edge over rival airports in Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Hong Kong, South Korea and other cities in the region.

Nuance Watson, Changi's largest perfume and cosmetics chain, supports the online move.

Said its managing director, Mr Ken Tse: "There are travellers who don't like to enter shops and browse or don't have time, so this caters to them.

"I don't think online shopping will cannibalise foot traffic."

Business development manager Alvin Lim, 59, who travels several times a year, said: "I usually get to the airport about 11/2 hours before my flight, which does not leave much time for shopping, so the online portal is a good idea."