‘Over to you’: Jason Miles, Managing Director, Blackjack Promotions

By Trb Editor |

Having worked in travel retail since the late 1990s, Jason Miles has witnessed a number of changes to tax free shopping. At the helm of the UK’s largest travel retail agency Blackjack Promotions, Miles believes the recent decision by the UK government to scrap airside tax free shopping (excluding alcohol and tobacco) at airports from 1 January 2021 comes at the worst time.

In the latest ‘Over to you’ guest column, Miles urges his peers to challenge the government on the issue. At the same time, he examines how brands might rise to the challenge should the status quo remain.

Ending tax free shopping at Britain’s airports, now, is the definition of kicking us while we’re down. Covid-19 has brought the aviation industry to its knees and the ripple effect of this decision will add years to the sector’s recovery.


We can expect to see high spending groups from the likes of China divert shopping trips to Paris, Milan and Barcelona. Shopping is a major pull for them and we just won’t be able to compete on the savings that tax free shopping offers. Great Britain’s airport experience, as we know it, will lose its advantage over the European competition and the knock-on effect will extend to the broader retail and tourism sectors – something I’m not sure has been thought through.

Retail spend plays a part in airport revenue, which drives the airport experience. This adds to the appeal of travelling and visiting the UK; as someone in the business of experience, it’s difficult to find an upside to the situation. While we must not accept this decision just yet – and I urge anyone reading this to put pen to paper on the matter – what could retailers do if the decision sticks?

Faced with the demise of tax free sales, the UK industry has a unique opportunity to revive that feeling associated with the ‘golden age’ of travel by injecting more meaning and personality into the airport shopping experience.

Today, airports are shopping destinations because you can get premium items at a lower price than anywhere else. So, in a potential future where all prices are equal, or even at a disadvantage, we need to think about giving shoppers something new, which they cannot get anywhere else.

Offering exclusive, limited edition products only available airside and only in the UK could be a starting point. Exclusivity and personalisation are both big influences in the luxury market and could go some way to creating appeal. For me, the opportunity to innovate and differentiate really lies in the travel retail experience… something that creates those ‘Instagrammable’ moments. The golden age of travel was once filled with excitement and a sense of luxury, but in recent years it’s become somewhat transactional.

Faced with the disappearance of tax free shopping, retailers, airports and brands could revive that feeling by injecting more meaning and personality into airport retail experiences. For passengers to consider travelling, we will need to give them something.

Creating appealing and bespoke customer journeys for well-loved brands via a strong personnel presence airside remains the lifeblood of Blackjack Promotions.

Picture virtual, gamified environments that give customers special insight or clues to collect over time, creating loyalty and longevity in the consumer relationship. These immersive experiences could also engage the senses, albeit in a pandemic-safe environment. Brands could also think about redrawing the lines between human and digital experiences.

Pre-recorded digital content connecting customers to brand ambassadors could be used to create anticipation and translate into instore personal shopping, tips and exclusive information. Creating new, bespoke experiences for much-loved brands with airside presence is the lifeblood of Blackjack Promotions. While we would rather support retailers to recover from Covid-19 without this added challenge, we are confident that we, as an industry, could reimagine the travel retail experience to ensure we have a fighting chance of survival and perhaps even real success.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the columnist’s and do not necessarily reflect those of TRBusiness.

To read other columns in the series, click the relevant links below. Interested in getting involved? Please contact one of the editorial team at the following: [email protected][email protected][email protected].

Kate Holsgrove, Chief Commercial Officer, Perth Airport

Leanne Nutter, Head of Travel Retail, Blackjack Promotions

Diego Baeza, Global Travel Retail & Duty Free Director, Viña Concha y Toro 

Richard Gray, Chief Executive Officer, Aer Rianta International Middle East 

Olivier Dancette Founder, HiDutyFree

Dr Patrick Bohl, Chairman, CEETRA

Laurent Safar, CEO, Adaptive Channel 

Tim Jobber, International Management Consultant, JES Travel Retail

John Pearce, Head of Retail & Commercial — Terminal, Adelaide Airport Limited

Alain Maingreaud, President, TFWA Part Two

Andrew Brodie, CEO, Sunshine Coast Airport

Trevor Lee, Managing Director, TravConsult

James Prescott, Managing Director, Harding Retail

Tullia Ialongo, Business Development Partner, Wand Technology

One Red Kite Limited, Founder and Managing Director Kevin Brocklebank

Alain Maingreaud, President, TFWA Part One


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