How many times has Travel Retail as an industry talked about the need for more collaboration? Every show, conference or meeting over the past few years has been rife with discussion of the need to share data and change the way we work.
And what has changed? Well, almost nothing.
The simple truth is that talk is cheap and the TR industry has been doing little else. Now we are seeking to rebuild after the devastation wrought by a global pandemic. To keep talking now is potentially fatal. What is required is action. And fast.
COVID-19 has put many companies, including more than 30 airlines, out of business. In many cases this was because they were ill- equipped to evolve and survive. The plain fact is that our current retail model – indeed our current industry model – is not fit for purpose. The Minimum Annual Guarantee, which has hampered so many for so long, is dead in the water. It should be buried for good. Real change is needed to establish a new way of working. This means that the big players – specifically the airports and retailers – must take the lead, or they will simply not have an industry to be big players in.
Overly dramatic? I don’t think so. This is not just change to escape our existing, outdated model. It is meaningful evolution. Our sector is bursting with potential – from new brands and categories to new partnerships and opportunities. The long overlooked F & B sector is one good example. The real challenge is our own willingness to change.
Last week at the ETRC Business Forum, new TFWA President Jaya Singh told delegates: ”We cannot work in silos. Working in silos will not get us out of this. It will not allow us to reach the future that we know is there.”
We have heard the same sentiment from many in his position before. Our industry is full of innovators who are constrained by its outdated structures, while everyone else talks about reform – without actually bringing it about. Who will stand up and be counted?
Heinemann’s Dr Jennifer Cords told the ETRC Forum that the German retailer is willing to cooperate on data ”if we are not the only one”.
She is right. There are endless disclaimers for any big business getting into collaboration, but we are well past the time where someone must take the first step. Businesses must act or admit that they are either unwilling, or unable, to do so and then clear the space for someone else.
There is no shortage of ideas out there. Last year, the Future Airports: From Here to Where? video series shed light on a raft of new perspectives, business models and opportunities waiting to be harnessed. Exciting new ideas were also on display at the Moodie Davitt Virtual Travel Retail Expo. All those concepts are as salient today as they were then. If you missed it first time around, the Future Airports webinar can be found on the www.trunblocked.com website. There have been over 54000 views of the videos.
The efforts by the ETRC and the DFWC are to be applauded. They are shedding more light on TR’s biggest failing. But they will not and cannot bring about the change which is so desperately needed. That has to come from airports and retailers, who must take responsibility for leading the way.
The world has changed. Continuing to play it safe with the old ways is now the route to extinction. Taking risks and trying something new is a scary proposition, of course. But continuing to do the same thing and expect different results is utter madness.