Heidi Van Roon on sparking a new airport retail staffing solution for maximizing sales

By Mark Lane: [email protected]
Source: ©The Moodie Davitt Report

18 March 2021

Spark Group of Companies has unveiled a bold new sales and promotions staffing solution which aims to help brands and retailers maximize revenues in the wake of a transformed, COVID-shaped airport retail environment.

Named the Brand Partner Program, it has been devised to enhance the role of the traditional sales assistant or brand ambassador employed in airport retail stores to that of a dedicated in-store brand manager.


Spark Group of Companies President Heidi Van Roon (centre) with some of the Spark-employed frontline staff who have made a major impact for brands in North American airport retail

These individuals – known as Brand Partners – are recruited and employed by Spark, and placed to represent client brands and/or retailers in airport stores. They are trained and supported to provide airport shoppers with what the programme’s creator describes as “a highly engaging, personalized and more sophisticated airport retail experience”.

“With the Brand Partner Program we are delivering benefits to the retailer, benefits to the brand, and benefits to the employee. In other words, a win-win-win situation. We urge brands and retailers to provide input and to work with us and lead the airport retail sales model forward into a bright future” – SPARK Group of Companies President Heidi Van Roon

The one-year, extendable programme features real-time sales reporting via a designed-for-purpose app.

Vancouver-headquartered Spark is well-known in the North American airport retail industry, having previously delivered successful sales and HR programs for brands and retailers including Estée Lauder, Godiva, Dufry, Coty, L’Oréal, Andrew Peller, Sisley, AmorePacific, Hermès and Bvlgari among many others.


Brand Partner Program cohorts at key airports are scheduled to commence later this year, in line with North American air travel recovery, Spark said.

The programme is aimed at all major categories in airport retail and is front-loaded with bespoke Spark sales training. Modules are designed to complement the established product training programmes of brands and airport retailers.

Heidi Van Roon: “Collaboration is right at the heart of what we are trying to achieve”

According to Spark Group of Companies President Heidi Van Roon, those brands and retailers face many daunting issues in the face of COVID-19, and the Brand Partner Program has been designed to tackle them “head-on”.

For brands, she said, these issues include reduced shopfloor accessibility and travel budgets, obsolete activation models and ROI uncertainty. For retailers, she said, the programme tackles the challenges of reduced labour budgets, high turnover costs of brand ambassador programmes, and the need to adapt activations to what is safe and impactful in the post-COVID era.

In addition to sales training and brand immersion, Brand Partners receive dedicated 12-month contracts from Spark with competitive wages. Van Roon said there are long-term job prospects that are extendable either with Spark, the brand or the retailer upon successful completion of the programme.

The employees placed by Spark under the Brand Partner Program will undertake specialist airport retail sales training

Pricing for the Brand Partner Program is available in full-time or part-time packages, with each individual Brand Partner costing the client an all-inclusive price of approximately US$40 per hour. Across all six options available, Spark said it is committed to a positive ROI for every client.

The programme fee includes recruitment, Spark training, on-site support, wages, bonus, employer obligations, regular reporting and an administration fee.

A key element of the Spark offer under the Brand Partner Program is a new approach to airport retail selling that reflects best practice under COVID-19 safety protocols

Van Roon said: “Collaboration is right at the heart of what we are trying to achieve. The success of the Brand Partner Program is dependent on a team of 5-10 Brand Partners per airport location and full retailer support. We have used our experience of delivering some of the most profitable brand ambassador programmes and brand activations seen in Americas travel retail in pre-COVID years to create this new, all-encompassing airport retail sales employment service.”

SPARK Services

A promotion for the La Prairie White Caviar Collection, supported by Spark

She concluded: “With the Brand Partner Program, we are delivering benefits to the retailer, benefits to the brand, and benefits to the employee. In other words, a win-win-win situation. We urge brands and retailers to provide input and to work with us and lead the airport retail sales model forward into a bright future.”

Contact Heidi Van Roon at [email protected] to find out how the Brand Partner Program can benefit your brand or airport retail operation.

Spark Group of Companies is a Silver Partner at the upcoming Summit of the Americas – A Virtual Experience (5-9 April), and Heidi Van Roon will be a speaker at the event. You can find out much more about Spark’s Brand Partner Program during this virtual show, which is being organized by the International Association of Airport and Duty-Free Stores (IAADFS) and Asociación Sudamericana de Tiendas Libres (ASUTIL) in partnership with The Moodie Davitt Report.

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