CircleSquare challenges travel retail industry to be “ready to start the race” as trading opportunities emerge in COVID-19 world

CircleSquare, the leading experiential marketing, brand activation and consumer engagement specialist, has called on the travel retail channel to be “ready to start the race” when consumer spending returns in airports post COVID-19. The London-headquartered company’s executive creative director and founding partner, Philip Handley says that brands and retailers should be looking to hit the ground running with the kind of retail activations and experiences which will capture the attention of cautious, safety-conscious air travellers, as the industry gradually gets back to its feet. Handley, whose business works with retailers such as Dufry, DFS and Gebr. Heinemann and a wide range of international companies responsible for major travel retail brands including Diageo, Mondelez and L’Oreal, says: “If brands and retailers spend this enforced downtime developing ideas and plans for an eye-catching comeback when traffic starts moving again, they will be the early winners post-COVID.” He adds: “Given what has happened it’s easy to put the brakes on but that means you are likely to miss the chance to access a significant share of the consumer spending that will surely come when people can move more freely again. There are going to be a lot of people who are not going to be ready to start that race and, from what I understand, it will be a race like no other. More agile brands could make huge gains over competitors by acting now and preparing properly.” Handley notes that there are signs of a rebound for consumer spending in China, with COVID-19 cases down to manageable numbers and the domestic flight market starting up again. He says the travel retail industry in countries where the coronavirus pandemic is still at its peak, such as many in Europe, need to track activity and be ready, as their recovery is likely to follow a similar pattern to China and other Asia Pacific countries where we have seen what Handley describes as “Revenge Consumption”. Handley, whose company has international offices in Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai, Shenzhen and Taipei, made an early decision to send his own team into a working lockdown as soon as the COVID-19 crisis started to escalate, with every single member of staff successfully working remotely. But he says this does not affect CircleSquare’s ability to deliver the kind of work that brands will need to support them to hit the ground running, as a revival in travel retail activity begins to spread across the continents. He comments: “Most of the best retail experiences we create for brands take between three and six months to execute, from strategic planning and conceptualisation to fabrication and installation in store. That means brands and retailers need to start briefing their creative agencies now to be ready on time. “We have been offering clients a free planning service, so if anyone wants advice they should come and talk to us now. We have the proven ability to create activations that drive footfall, increase dwell time and change the focus away from a product's price and onto a product’s experience – this is what you will need to succeed in winning the early business when it becomes available. “So my strong suggestion to all brands and travel retail directors out there is that I know many of them have budgets on hold, but that doesn’t mean you can't start planning now; you can start testing new ideas for retail space without sacrificing revenue and be ready to move quickly when the time comes.” Handley concludes: “We all need freedom, we all need to dream and we all want to reconnect to the outside world, which is a powerful motivating factor. Our industry will be helping to bring friends and families back together in what will be a massive opportunity for us all, especially those companies who have seen revenues dry up. “Naturally things will be different but there will still be a great number of air passengers who are hungry to reconnect with great retail experiences and brands and retailers must be ready. If you are not on that start line with loads of great ideas then you’re in trouble.”

June 8, 2020

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