This week, I wanted to share a few thoughts on branding. Our channel works with a lot of brands and as an industry, retailers appear to be trying to create brand identities to differentiate themselves in the market. Given the nature of our market, branding is clearly a challenge in our channel and I will share a very typical conversation that I frequently have to demonstrate it.

The Typical Conversation

I always find meeting new people to be a great way of learning more about our channel especially when that inevitable question (So what do you do?) comes up. The conversation normally goes like this:

Them: “So what do you do?”
Me: “I help airports, shops and brands by showing them how to make a lot more money”
Them: “Oh. That sounds interesting”… they pause… “is that duty free shops?”
Me: “Yes, that’s right”
Them: “So you tell them where to put things then?”
Me: “Yes, that is part of it. What do you think of airport shops?”
Them: “Ah, I always have a look, see what is there. Some of it can be expensive. Captive audience though aren’t we. No choice but to pay higher prices for things like bottle of water”
Me: “Last time you flew, did you buy anything?”
Them: “Yes I did actually. I picked up a bottle of perfume. Cheaper than the high street.”
Me: “Do you remember the name of the shop?”
Them: “No, it’s just the Duty Free shop. It is just part of the airport isn’t it?”

The Travel Retailer Challenge

So, the shopper often perceives the Tax & Duty Free store to be part of the airport. This prompts some questions such as:

  • Is it necessary to differentiate and stand out from the airport?
  • What is the impact on the perceived experience at the airport as a whole?
  • Does bad service at security impact the attitude towards the retail offer?
  • Does bad service in stores impact the perception of the airport?
  • How do overcome the challenge of language?
  • What should the brand stand for?
  • How do you attach brand values to the company name, symbol or logo?
  • Why should the shopper create any form of relationship with your brand?
  • How can you make your brand memorable?
  • How do you overcome the challenge of frequency?
  • How does branding impact your tender strategy?

In domestic, shops and brands are often part of every day life. We see them everywhere and we are reminded of them (even if we do not always notice them!) on a daily basis. In travel retail, travellers may only see the store once a year.

One Option…

Personally, I believe that the most successful retail solution would be a fully integrated one. The traveller:

  • Arrives at Airport A and sees the retail brand.
  • Boards the plane and sees the in-flight shopping and sees the same brand
  • The traveller arrives at Airport B and see’s the same brand.

Such a strategic partnership could yield significant benefits across the entire value chain for all parties. What would happen to concession tenders if retailers started thinking in terms of routes and joined the dots?

Thinking more radically, what would happen if airlines such as Ryanair or EasyJet opened airport stores?

Retail branding is a challenging subject and one that needs more than 500 words. I haven’t covered a wide range of subjects and issues here but I hope that I have raised some questions for now. I would love to hear your thoughts…

As ever, thank you so much for reading.