People

“Customers are often time rich and cash rich” Fraser Dunlop

Rob Allanson talks to Fraser Dunlop,head of liquor,tobacco,food and tax free items for World Duty Free
By Rob Allanson
The airport retail environment is becoming increasingly different from a shopping centre,except of course for the captivity and excitability of its audience.Hence,Fraser Dunlop’s appointment at the end of last year bringing with him a great deal of high street expertise to World Duty Free,BAA’s (British Airport Authority) retail subsidiary.Dunlop worked for Sainsbury’s for 10 years,where he held a number of roles,including buying positions in fresh produce and beer.He also worked for Sainsbury’s in the US before returning to the United Kingdom to manage beers,wines and spirits.Rob: How does the Travel retail sector differ to other retail world?Fraser: Alot of customers are looking for the exclusives and the collector’s items and we have one of the best ranges in retailing.Also we have had a series of exclusive launches of expressions, for instance the Singleton of Glen Ord, and also have duty free exclusives too.In travel retail the big global brands are the biggest sellers, such as Johnny Walker, Chivas Regal and Glenmorangie’s Cellar 13 is one of the biggest sellers. A lot of customers are looking to make the trade up to deluxe and premium whiskies, and this happens more when shopping at the airports.We know that people are buying more expensive whiskies when the travel because of the range we offer. Customers are often time rich and cash rich too when they are waiting for flights.One customer recently spent £8,500 on three bottles, and this sort of spending happens quite regularly.Rob: What is on the horizon for World Duty Free?Fraser: At the moment we have some 70 shops in total, including Gatwick and Heathrow. Next year when terminal five opens at Heathrow there will be seven new shops in a day.World of Whisky has seven stores and has a different feel, more traditional feel to them.With T1 and T2 merging at Heathrow and the new T5 the whole profile and range of our shops will change. It will be tailored by terminal. With 98 per cent of BA flights leaving the new T5 we will have to be the best in the world with all those customers passing through.My ultimate vision is to get more people in to the shops and drinking premium whiskies. Want to have more promotional literature so people can find us.So we have to have beacon brands to guide people and have the staff here to help people understand and inform their choices.The new stores will have the look of T3, but my personal goal is to really modernise the World of Whisky stores. I want them to be modern but without forgetting the traditional values.Rob: With such a large footfall and variety of customer, how much of a premium is placed on staff knowledge?Fraser: Our staff is fully trained and exceptionally knowledgeable. As well as an in house training program we send them on the Wine and Spirits Trust training. They also received updates on new releases.The devil is in the detail for the staff. They are the front line and only have a few moments to give a potential customer the knowledge they need to buy a product. I also encourage them to feed back and solutions they have or ideas for the shop to help customers.Rob: What are the challenges of working within international airports?Fraser: It is an interesting business to be in. The modern day challenges post 9/11 are unlike that of the high street with security alerts and it is not easy sometimes. We have to offer refunds sometimes if certain things happen.It is an external factor the High Street does not really have to worry about often.Rob: Whisky is not the only spirit offered in travel retail, how much emphasis is placed on it?Fraser: Malt whisky accounts for a big chunk of sales but there are opportunities we should be looking at especially with bourbon, cognac and premium vodka. But with these areas I feel that we have to educate people. I really got into bourbons when I was living in the US. A barman in Boston got me interested in it.Rob: What’s in your drinks cupboardat the moment?Fraser: I used to live on Islay when I was a child and I have a love of Ardbeg. Also Johnny Walker Black and the Highland Park 16 Years Old, which is a Travel Retail exclusive.I went on holiday to Arran a while back and discovered the distillery there. I was pleasantly surprised by the range and had a great tour of the distillery.