‘Over to you series’: Kevin Brocklebank, Founder and MD, One Red Kite Limited

By Trb Editor |

Over to You guest columns logo lead

In the latest of a new guest columnist series for TRBusiness.com, One Red Kite Limited, Founder and Managing Director Kevin Brocklebank, issues a rallying call to the industry during this turbulent period based around some key learnings.

Despite the continuing challenges and turmoil resulting from the Covid-19 crisis, travel retail remains our wonderful industry.

It is often a career people stumble into but find themselves falling in love with. It is easy to see why. Travel retail is full of incredibly passionate people who thrive on the everyday challenges our unique market brings.

Travel retail until now has been resilient. It has overcome challenges such as 9/11, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, wars and weather. But while the industry has faced adversity head on, it now faces its toughest challenge.

We are at war with an invisible enemy and must be patient until this has passed. As always, we will continue to work hard and grow the industry with the usual enthusiasm and energy.


The short-term outlook may be negative, but if the quintet of airlines, airports, retailers, brands and passengers work together, we will survive and thrive. These five elements define how we at RedKite look at the interdependencies in the channel.

Kevin Brocklebank for web

“Passengers will return and business will return. We just have to work hard, dig deep, breathe and be patient.” — Kevin Brocklebank, Founder and Managing Director, One Red Kite Limited.

If we are to survive and thrive, it is important to remember that travel retail is a very human industry. It is like no other retail channel, which is what some people conveniently forget.

People can choose whether they go to a shopping centre, which is not the case in our market. In order to fly, people must pass through airports and therefore see stores (the smart airports have walkthrough outlets).

Passengers have time at their disposal, so we must ensure the in-store execution is the best possible. I hate to say this, but often it isn’t. Now is the time to reflect and address this.

Covid-19 may be causing problems, but it is also teaching us some valuable lessons.

The first is that shopper targeting should be more than just about the Chinese. For too long, the industry has focused on China as the saviour of the channel. In certain instances, this focus has led to some ‘interesting’ decisions.

As soon as the Chinese stopped flying, panic set in. The lesson here is that we need to be smarter with every nationality. In fact, based on work I undertook many years ago, it would be better focusing on Destination as a way of shopper targeting.

Take the Brits, for example. Those flying to Ibiza on holiday will spend differently to those taking the children to Disneyland. Everyone is a potential customer and money is money.

Another lesson is the need to adapt to the new normal. As the channel begins to normalise we must consider how the ‘normal’ will change for a while.

The smart retailers will have bottles of antibacterial spray to hand, which are visible to shoppers. They will regularly clean surfaces which come into contact with shoppers (pin pads at cash desks).


Initially, passengers will be extremely cautious which adds stress and anxiety that prevents people from spending. Store-based teams will most likely maintain the highest of hygiene standards. We are dealing with an unpredictable world and each day brings changes for everyone.

Thirdly, this crisis teaches us that people are more important than ever. They are the number one priority and every employer will be ensuring their employees are supported and looked after.

Each and every one of us will be affected by the Covid-19 crisis in many different ways, for a long time. Consumers/shoppers will judge airlines, retailers and brands on how they treat their staff in these difficult times.

Never has there been such scrutiny on the conduct of businesses. There is a balancing act to be done, where company survival is pitted against protecting livelihoods. Tough decisions will need to be made.

Incurring the wrath of the paying public is not a battle we need. Employees won’t forget companies’ efforts in trying to keep people employed. The word, ‘authenticity’ is bounced around by companies and it will now be put to the test.

While everything might seem like it is crashing down around us, we must have faith, hold on and remember there is hope.

Passengers will return and business will return. We just have to work hard, dig deep, breathe and be patient.

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

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