‘Over to you’: Leanne Nutter, Head of Travel Retail, Blackjack Promotions

By Andrew Pentol |

Over to You Sarah Nutter Blackjack July 2020Following the recent reopening of Dufry stores at London Heathrow Airport Terminals 2 and 5, Leanne Nutter, Head of Travel Retail, Blackjack Promotions, says DF&TR must return to the basics of emotional intelligence in order to connect with shoppers in the post-Covid-19 world. Nutter, who was present at Terminal 5 on 1 July 2020, as the Blackjack team returned to work, emphasises the value of human-to-human interactions and suggests their remains plenty of ways to create valuable brand experiences.

As much as I would love to gaze into my magic crystal ball and predict that everything will be back to normal in a month’s time, we all know that can never happen.

In fact, if crystal balls were even a real thing, we might not have found ourselves in this position in the first place.

The truth is, we never could have predicted the massive global impact that the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic would have on so many aspects of everyday life — from health to business, the global economy and even something as simple as buying a coffee on the way to work.

Covid-19 hasn’t just turned our whole world upside down. It has grounded the airlines that connect our world. For those in the aviation and travel retail industries, there’s no denying it has been a difficult three months as services ground to a halt, almost overnight.


The good news is that we are starting to see light at the end of the runway. Soon, the sky will be lined with contrails once again and with that means more passengers coming through the airport. But one thing’s for sure. The ‘new normal’ is going to be very different.

Leanne Nutter, Head of Travel Retail, Blackjack Promotions July 2020

Leanne Nutter, Head of Travel Retail, Blackjack Promotions: “We’re all learning to adapt to these new circumstances. It will still take time, but for travel retail, it’s time to return to basics, hold back the bells and whistles and utilise your most important assets.”

While it’s important to look forward, I want to start by taking a moment to reflect on the last few months. The headlines splashed across our trusty industry trade magazines painted a pretty dire picture for the travel retail industry — things are going to change forever, consumers are not going to want to talk to people in-store and no sampling will be allowed.

That made me quite sad because all the things that make travel retail so great — the people, the sampling, the amazing in-store experiences— seemed to be going out the window with the prospect of being unable to do any of that anymore.

At the time, all consumer behaviour analysis and insight into how things were going to change was reflective of how consumers were feeling at that moment, which at points was pretty scary.

But now, with everything moving on so quickly, I’m delighted to see that people’s views are slowly changing and they are feeling a little more confident.

It looks like we’re finally coming out the other side of it and, as we saw from the recent re-opening of Dufry’s store in Heathrow Terminal 2, customers are more willing to get back to how things were. By this, I mean the positive side of how things were.

We know change is inevitable, but I believe it will all be change for the better.


One thing’s for sure. The craving for human interaction will never disappear. After being in lockdown for three months, I think we can all agree on that. It’s the same in-store. People value human interaction and for brands and retailers of course, how they create that connection might look a little different for a while in the months ahead.

Now must be the time for travel retail to return to basics. People like to talk to people; even if it’s muffled from behind a face-mask, with hands covered in freshly applied sanitiser or gloves, or at a two-metre distance (‘one-metre plus’ distance where two is impossible). Yes, there are still restrictions and it might take time to navigate through this, but the value of human-to-human interactions can never be outshone by technology. As things begin moving again, preparing your brand ambassadors with online safety training for a safe return to work is crucial before they return to the shop floor in the airport.

While they might be unable to hand out samples or spray eager shoppers with a spritz of the latest fragrance, there are still numerous other ways to create valuable brand experiences for duty free shoppers. Merchandising has probably never been more important to ensure a product is in the right place and looking how it should.


Leanne Nutter, Head of Travel Retail, Blackjack Promotions (left) was present at London Heathrow 5 last week, as Blackjack staff returned to work in the reopened Dufry store.

Again, it’s about going back to the basics of emotional intelligence in order to connect with shoppers under these new circumstances. Brand ambassadors are well trained in knowing how to spot signs by reading people and their body language in order to approach them in the best way.

It’s about reading the customer and knowing what they want before they even have to ask. While some customers might be open to having a socially distanced conversation about a brand or product, others might be less inclined and perhaps even a little nervous about this whole new situation. Knowing if they should stand back or engage is something great brand ambassadors do best.

We’re all learning to adapt to these new circumstances. It will still take time, but for travel retail, it’s time to return to basics, hold back the bells and whistles and utilise your most important assets — the people — to help instil trust and confidence with shoppers, as we navigate this new post-Covid-19 world.

World Duty Free Terminal 2 reopening

Source: World Duty Free LinkedIn.

The views and opinions expressed here belong to the columnist 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].

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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