As you know, Travel Retail fascinates me. It is a wonderful environment which has the hustle and bustle of people moving through and onwards to their final destination. To help these people lighten their bank balance, we create luxurious stores that sparkle and shine. Tempt, delight, lure, whatever your choice of words, the store environment has been designed to provide a sense of luxury. As time goes on, the glitz and the glamour can fade and we are left with a ‘working store’ that never quite reaches the standard that was set on its opening day. In essence, standards slip as greater emphasis is placed on selling rather than maintaining a beautiful store.

The Importance of Operations

Today, I want to talk about the area backstage. As soon as you take a step off the shop floor what do you see? I believe great retail is not just about what the shopper sees. Great retail is also about the operational standards too. I will use a non-travel retail experience to demonstrate my point.

Going Backstage

As you probably know by now, I have a son who is 4. Before setting off on a shopping trip, I ask him (until I am blue in the face) whether he needs the toilet. He insists he does not. Now, the readers who have children know exactly what is coming next.

We arrive at a retail park, get out of the car, lock the doors and yes, you guessed it, a little voice chirps up (Daddy I need a wee). There are no facilities available so I head for a store and almost beg to be allowed to use the staff toilet. The shop assistant was a little hesitant until it became clear (through my son’s sudden burst of dancing on the spot with footwork that even Justin Timberlake would be impressed with) that it would be easier to let us use the toilet than clean up after him. We were quickly ushered through the doors and pointed towards the staff facilities.

I have to say, it was like walking into another world. My observations were as follows:

– Corridors cluttered with broken boxes, returns, cages etc
– The floors were dirty
– Torn posters were on the wall and clearly out of date
– The whiteboard with sales targets on it looked like it had been scrawled on
– The staff room was a mess
– The toilets were simply disgusting and also had stationery and other items stored in there

The Working Environment

Another thing that surprised me were the little things – grey walls, battered lockers, broken door handles, damaged paintwork etc.

Glancing into the stock room, it was clear that they were in disarray. The cursory glance that I had, it was clear that there was a lack of discipline. Running the backstage of a retailer requires meticulous attention to detail, planning and organisation.

I have seen the backstage area of a wide variety of retailers (travel retail & domestic) and have found a varying degree of efficiency and standards. I have also experienced retailers where they would not let me go behind the scenes. Whenever that is the case, there is something in me that (rightly or wrongly) hears the alarm bells start ringing.

The Travel Retail Context

Within Travel Retail, the sheer volume of product moving through the outlet means that operations are critical. The backstage area is just as important in some respects as the shop floor. Stock must flow from the back door to the shop floor with the utmost efficiency. Even the paperwork and cash operations need to be efficient. I would also say that it is critical for the environment to be right – paint those walls, clean the decks, fix the doors and clean the toilets!

In essence, you should never be embarrassed to take a shopper into the stock room.

Does this hold true for every part of your retail operations environment?

As ever, thank you for reading.

Kevin