By: Craft-R-Us   •   email:

I have a confession to make. We travellers like to shop it is true. We come to the airport and because we are mostly bored at having to arrive early for our flights, have to find something to do. More often than not, we would consider looking around the shops. But that was only the first few times we came here. Soon after we noticed that all shops look alike. Regardless of airport, there is no diversity and nothing too different from the shopping malls back home in our home cities.

So, we stopped going in and instead head for the coffee shop or grab a sandwich on the go. If business is paying for the trip, we go to the lounge and wait until our flight is announced.

The shopping mall at the airport is bright and full of brands. Glenfiddich, Johnnie Walker, Baileys, Toblerone, Cadbury, Gucci, Armani, Estee Lauder and the list goes on. It can be expensive and I am never sure how much of a benefit or discount I gain by buying it here. This shopping mall is just another in a long list of shopping malls that look the same everywhere I go…

The Shopping Mall Syndrome is very real and affects many travellers across the world.

OK, I have a confession to make. I am not only a traveller but also a smaller supplier keen to enter the Travel Retail channel.

The Global Travel Retail (GTR) industry is in a fortunate position in that the number of travellers continues to rise so the travel retail model continues to work…for now. This is less likely to last especially in mature markets such as the Americas and Europe. The commercial pressure on the supplier base continues to increase. Penetration levels remain lower than all of us would like.

The Trinity concept of airport, travel retailer and supplier working together does not exist for us. The legacy of the industry’s contract tender model makes it difficult for travel retailers to take the risk on diversity through smaller suppliers and instead, they focus on the larger suppliers which in fact creates the opposite effect. Airports, as the landlords and the group responsible for the terms of the model, should actively encourage and pursue diversity in order to offer what consumers want. They should ‘walk the talk’ instead of just talking about it across so many different industry events, such as the recent Trinity Forum 2017, where diversity was one of the hot topics.

But how can this be overturned? We already know the answer and have openly talked about it. Offer travellers a more diverse range with international brands but also local products with provenance, offer them craft products with real people behind it, support the smaller suppliers and make it easy for them to take their first steps into travel retail.

But here is the first problem. It is not easy. We are not sure where to start. Perhaps the travel retail industry associations? But how easy is it to showcase your products when no stand is easily available in Cannes and the cost – the barrier to entry – is too high for new entrants? Which of the global industry associations makes it easy to showcase our products at their events?

The second problem is the trade itself. We hear from the top management at retailers that diversity is important and we know that airports would like to see this improved, at least in terms of sense of place and provenance. But when you approach a global retailer, they are difficult to reach, more often than not will not respond to our approach and want to see guaranteed results upfront – it is the ‘chicken and egg’ scenario. We are not looking for guarantees, just the opportunity to show that a more diverse range of products and brands can create increased business for everyone and perhaps, just maybe, have more travellers becoming shoppers…

The product offer decision for the retailer’s shop floor comes top down from their ivory towers. Local teams could provide a better bottom up approach but their views are often not taken into account. Think also about your travel retailer buying teams and how most of them do not talk to their local and smaller suppliers. Think about the pressure you place on us by treating us as a risk and making it almost impossible to enter the channel when asking for 70% or more margin, a margin higher than you would ask for an established GTR supplier. Think about the high listing fees that you request from us.

How can you then ask for more innovation and yet continue to create a barrier, whether intended or not, for potentially very creative and innovative companies to enter your retail arena?

Is it any wonder that the Shopping Mall Syndrome is real and widespread?

Peter Marshall

Founder: Arts
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