‘Adapt & Survive’ series: Simon Black, Executive MD TR, Harper Dennis Hobbs

By Andrew Pentol |

ADAPT-AND-SURVIVE-Simon-Black---460x306International retail advisory firm Harper Dennis Hobbs believes there will be a greater appetite for travel retail in ‘more of a risk-free way’  in the post Coronavirus (Covid-19) era.

In a compelling interview as part of the TRBusiness Adapt & Survive Skype video series, Simon Black, Executive Managing Director Travel Retail, Harper Dennis Hobbs, has already noticed a change in attitude among brands.

He said: “Quite a few brands which did not want their products in a multi-brand environment operated by one of the big duty free operators, are changing their opinion on that because it is a lower risk way [of working — ed].

“Brands can take a shop-in-shop or have their brand distributed by operators in the travel retail channel.”

Black, whose company is among a number of exhibitors to have purchased brand hubs for our upcoming TRMarketplace fully-digital meeting and conference event said: “More brands will be open to multiple approaches to travel retail. This will be great for the big operators, who will be able to attract some great, new and exciting brands, some of which they may have been unable to work with previously.”


At present, there is a nervousness about travel and airports are going to find it difficult to attract new brands for their physical standalone stores over the next 12 to 18 months, according to Black.

“Airports should be working with their current partners to find the best and pragmatic solutions that work best for both parties to see themselves through this tough time.”

He added: “What airports need to be mindful of over the coming 12, 18 or 24 months is that if they want to command the same levels of concession fees and guaranteed minimum expectations as previously, they are going to look increasingly more expensive as a channel to retailers to operate in.

“This is because domestic markets are now offering huge incentives such as rent-free periods and are building stores for retailers free of charge.”

Assessing current and future prospects in domestic and travel retail, black has noted an initial demand and spike in sales and physical shopping across domestic markets.

“This is probably born out of a pent-up frustration at being unable to physically shop over the last three or four months during the lockdown. Where domestic markets have reopened their retail, there has been an initial spike in interest Footfall has been relatively strong, sales have been okay and spend per customer and conversion has been fantastic.

“It then very quickly plateaus away after one or two weeks because there is still a consumer fear.”

Airports are unlikely to experience this spike or drop off because they do not have a domestic customer in that regard.

Black explained: “They have a passenger flying through that is only going to see stores once, twice or three times a year unless they are regular flyers. Airports, therefore, are probably not going to see that initial tail off and hopefully the business will build more in line with passenger growth as the industry gets going again.”

The TRBusiness ‘Adapt and Survive’ Skype video interview series is a direct response to the industry’s critical need for direct, factual and analytical commentary and – in typical TRBusiness fashion – interprets clearly and concisely the challenges faced by travel retail during Covid-19.

Adapt & Survive asks members of the travel retail industry community, often working from home, for their candid commentary on the constantly evolving Covid-19 pandemic.

To register your interest in the Adapt and Survive series, please contact one of the editorial team at the following addresses: [email protected][email protected][email protected].


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