There is no shortcut around the reality that the pandemic has deeply affected, if not traumatized human behaviour, reactions, and interactions. Staff and customers the world over are not spared, the world is experiencing one of the most universal crises of this generation. Validating the individual and the collective impact and balancing this with the analytical business decisions will be the new leadership dynamic among managers and leaders.

Five practical supports that CEO’s can offer to support mental health in times of crisis are paraphrased as 1) accessibility and availability; 2) supportive listening; 3) consistency; 4) connection; and 5) communicating resources.

USA and International News:

Key Canadian News:

YVR specific news:
We believe that YVR will be a leading airport in the rebound period as an Asia Pacific gateway and as a region with an extremely well-managed pandemic. Air bridges or travel bubbles are expected between Vancouver and approved destinations. The province of BC is now in Phase 3 of the reopen plan. Phase 2 of the BC reopen plan started May 17th and has successfully passed two incubation periods. K-12 schools are in session with half classes online and half in attendance, retail locations with street access are also open, restaurants and bars are open at half capacity. In the chart below, BC is the brown trendline that pretty much runs along the axis compared to Quebec and Ontario, the provinces most affected and predominantly influencing the country trend.

While we still need to remain cautious, we are beginning to see the first green shoots at YVR and WDF. PLEASE note that the daily departures from YVR to Shanghai and Bejing that were scheduled to restart on July 1st have been delayed until July 15th. There are about 4-5 Air Canada departures for Hong Kong that started in June. Plus a few flights by Chinese carriers to Bejing, Guangzhou, and Chengdu per week.

The return of YVR Business Partners (Agency employed staff) is arranged by brands with WDF, once WDF approved, then brands can contact the respective Agency with the start date. The agency will in turn contact WDF HR to arrange for the badge, first work schedule, etc. The first 100% vendor supported staff are beginning to return to the shop floor.

FYI: We received notification on June 19th that the email domain was not working for about two weeks.

Among the silver linings throughout this industry crisis is the proliferation of excellent publications, it is encouraging to see information sharing from the experts. While aviation has dropped to historically low levels, the industry pulse among passionate leaders continues strong and healthy.

I am most appreciative of The Moodie Davitt Report for consistently managing the dashboard of industry vital signs. Heartfelt thanks also to the many associations across the world such as DFNI, m1nd-set, and TRBusiness and Harvard Business Review for great press, webinars, research and thought leadership. The focus of the SPARK Market Updates is to assemble some key insights for NAM TR.

Among the recent In Crisis Podcasts are the interviews with Julián Diaz and Ray Hernan.

The entire podcast series is insightful, but as far as the NAM TR industry is concerned, these two podcasts are among the hallmarks that shed light on the complexity of the issues and the range of retailer plans to reopen. NAM TR is comprised of many retailers, some more vocal others less so and uncertainty prevails among most. The next season will be challenging for every stakeholder as we make our way through the disarray along the entire value chain. The recovery will require both heart and skill and a markedly different solution. At SPARK we desire to participate with the most complex of issues and concerns. We get it, and we hope to come alongside as a trusted partner offering HR and Sales support marked with both empathy that cares and with courage that leads.
The way forward will require collaboration, creativity and partnership around our shared goal of seeing the industry not just rebound, but also find its strength again. In the best way possible we desire to stand with you, where we have permission.

Immediate Priorities:
Amid all the uncertainty and disruption, now is the time for research, information gathering and weighing of resources, options and budgets that will support the best possible recovery period. This crisis is unlike any others, it is slow and drawn out and the impact continues to ripple through the industry and the economy. Aftershock follows another aftershock and emotionally, socially, and financially the world is united around a common agenda that goes far beyond the travel retail industry. Namely: health and safety in the family, in the workplace and en route.

As retail begins to open and despite the broken value chain, the most obvious priority is the initial preparation and the ongoing support of the front line team, the amazing retail staff that connects the customers to the brands they love with an unforgettable bespoke moment. No digital device, nor any online platform can support the human connection in a better way than a welcoming voice and the right words.

Research conducted in May by m1nd-set suggests 78% of Duty-Free Shoppers are undecided and rely on in-store elements to make a purchase decision and 56% of travel retail non-visitors would have been more willing to visit Duty-Free / Travel Retail if they were to find experiential retail.

Another research conducted around the same time by the same agency on the Chinese post-COVID-19 shopping behaviour below the age of 35, suggests:  88% will stick to a familiar brand/product and for 69% promotions and discounts would attract the majority to purchase.  63% said that luxury brands remain as the main preference.

First Shift Observations
While there is only a handful of international flights per day, we are observing that those customers who do feel safe to shop, they do shop. Shift outcomes in terms of dollars sold per shift are far above expectations and most definitely ROI positive, even in instances where there is only one departure during a shift.

The customer is ready to connect with the brands that they love, every investment into creating a memorable and in-person brand moment will contribute value not just in the immediate term but over the long term. In-person retail offers what no digital platform can, the unforgettable bespoke moment. It is a new retail environment and we want to remain realistic and optimistic.

Staffing Optimization / Shop Floor Coverage
Much like investing in the design of the packaging is the investment into sales staffing. The logic is simple, a more beautiful design will support the best appeal much like expert staff will support the best sales conversion and most genuine brand experience. The time to plan is now. Covering peak periods or key departures will be a top priority and the best allocation of labour budgets. We are here to help plan and help shape the expectations and keep a close eye on results. Peak daytime and midnight periods need to be covered. An evening shift with only one departure at YVR yielded results that no brand should be passing up. Tried and tested coverage programs across different departments have proven to add 20% – 50% to daily sales and outperforming department trends monthly, quarterly, and annually. The focus on staffing optimization is gaining more importance in a post-COVID-19 TR environment.

The Trinity Initiative
At the outset of the pandemic, the Moodie Davitt Report initiated an industry-wide conversation titled the Trinity Initiative, with expert input and in collaboration with Bain and Company this collaboration looks at the industry structure and the interdependent relationships within it.

The Trinity concept proposes a commercial model that is a win-win-win for key stakeholders.

SPARK is a big proponent for this initiative, it is our full intention to reflect this focus and practise in our future business model for Canada and the US. Since the beginning of February SPARK has shared an impact on the industry. We are here for the duration and beyond to join ethically and professionally and effectively around our shared goals. The first big goal is to see the industry rebound to 2019 levels even if this takes longer than expected.

100% Vendor paid promotional staff for Brand Ambassadors and Beauty Advisors
Without a doubt, retail staff are the front-line team in our industry. We are passionate about supporting and elevating the retail profession. The more significant the buy-in, the better the morale and the better the customer experience and the stronger the customer loyalty.

One of the highest priorities for customer service and for best possible branding outcomes is the staffing of highly effective promotional teams. Now is the time to raise the expectations for outcomes and accountability and to gather multiple quotes. SPARK will be taking an improved approach to all temporary programs. We believe in more for less, meaning better outcomes at a lower cost through a unique new service offering. While tastings and HPP’s and SPP’s or any high traffic promotion will likely not happen in the usual way, we are absolutely convinced about the value of brand supported promotional staff particularly in a retail setting where general sales staff may be scaled back. While our company promotions and programs are issued in a separate marketing piece, please contact us for pro-bono consultations, questions, or ideas. We are here for what you require.

This is the time to challenge customer service norms and in no small measure does the funding of this initiative rest with brands. CircleSquare, a peer in Europe and Asia speaks to this opportunity that is best summarized by the quote: “The role of the shops needs to change. It has to be defined by the experiences that cannot be delivered on a mobile phone. Less transactional and more experiential”.

Dufry has announced a major restructuring and reduction of personnel costs of 20% – 35%. The onus on qualified sales staff is resting with brands more than ever.

Health and Safety Plan
SPARK has prepared a Health and Safety Plan for our returning Staff. We also meet with our staff before they return to work to support them and to encourage them and to prepare them for a very different work environment. In the event that your brand or WDF Health and Safety Protocols are different, then the most stringent standard will apply.

WDF YVR requires all business partners to wear masks and gloves, these are not supplied by the retailer. SPARK has purchased reusable masks and black nitrile gloves for each staff. Face shields are not mandatory, they are permitted if staff chose to wear these.

In Summary
There are so many dynamics at play and so many perceptions particularly at a time when every individual and every business has been deeply impacted and sensitized. We want to demonstrate our empathy and our support and our commitment to stand with our peers. Our focus has also become more defined which is to invest more deeply into the industry that we love. Our core is HR and Sales and we are thankful for every retailer and every brand that has provided comments on our work both good and bad. We desire this feedback; it demonstrates trust and accountability. Our goal is to be the most collaborative and dependable sales agency for Travel Retail in North America with bespoke programs and supports that measurably contribute in meaningful ways. The ROI on all our services is guaranteed whether in recruitment or in staffing, we are here to create value.

Please visit our Airport Updates and our Spotlight Series and our social media links.

Sincerely and always with best wishes,

Heidi Van Roon

The Road to Recovery – Virtual Travel Retail Expo

June 9th, 2020|Moodie Davitt Report|

Throughout the live 5-day Virtual Travel Retail Expo 2020, the Symposium Hall and Workshop Rooms will host industry dialogue around the theme ‘Road to Recovery’, exploring how the travel retail channel will (or should) look in the future. The powerful line-up of speakers includes our very own Heidi Van Roon.

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Airport Update – June 2020

June 1st, 2020|Airport Update|

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