In the second feature in our new series examining travel retail and airport sector ‘disruptors’, we talk to husband and wife business partners Kevin and Jilly Brocklebank who want to transform travel retail by enhancing space planning and inventory data analytics.
This series focuses on individuals and companies that are challenging established models through risk-taking innovation, and the Brocklebanks’ believe their One Red Kite agency fits the bill.
Never has the need for fresh thinking in travel retail been greater, and One Red Kite was established with that mindset. The products and tools it has created or has plans to develop are ones Kevin and Jilly say they would have found useful during their combined 33 years working at the heart of travel retail.
Kevin’s career has included an array of roles in retail management, space planning and data analysis at the likes of Dixons Retail and World Duty Free, while Jilly held various category management and HR positions at World Duty Free and Estée Lauder.
Among One Red Kite’s services are a free-to-use sector jobs board and a blog that offers advice and observations on the travel retail industry, but the agency has plans to offer an “umbrella of services”. These services include staff training, data management and analysis support, and enablers such as mobile apps that can aid retail operations.
“Our unique positioning is our broad travel retail experience, from crunching numbers through to managing beauty consultants on the shop floor – that gives us a retailer mindset and mentality. I want to change the industry – I want to bring some science to the sector.” – Kevin Brocklebank
In this second edition of our new series we examine Voyager 2, which the Brocklebanks have described as a simple but effective software solution that can be used by all players in the retail team – not just data scientists.
Its premise is to help retailers optimise and think smarter about their assortments and inventories. The idea is that businesses can use the various statistics and cross-category data held in Voyager 2 to operate more profitably based on science and real data – not just old-fashioned gut feel.
Q&A: THE BROCKLEBANKS ON VOYAGER 2’s POTENTIAL IMPACT ON TRAVEL RETAIL
Firstly, tell us about your background and how Voyager 2 came about.
Kevin: Ever since my days at Dixons, I’ve been obsessed with retail space planning, how you optimise the offer and how you make sure your store space is as productive as it can possibly be. How do you make sure you get the right assortment and how can you make sure you understand the data you have in the best way to get the right results?
What’s your track record?
Kevin: To cut a long story short, when I was working at World Duty Free we had a warehouse that was full and we needed to get things moving again, so I built a range review model in Excel which all the buyers used to cut their assortments and reduce their stocks – and sales remained unaffected.
The other range review I pioneered was ‘ranging by destination’ – what do people buy when flying to certain locations? It profiles a store and what its specific assortment should be. Voyager 2 has that capability.
Tell us simply how Voyager 2 works.
Kevin: By optimising and thinking smarter about assortments you can actually create a lot of return on stock investment. We can measure gross margin return on inventory investment – how the minimum amount of stock in store can maximise profitability.
Voyager would help you optimise for the summer or the winter schedule rather than the micro level. You tend to find real consistencies and patterns.
If a retailer can take information and store it into what their assortment should be for the next few months, because they know the profile of a passenger, it would allow them to make quite strategic decisions.
Every airport is like its own little world. Heathrow is different to Gatwick which is different to Stansted which is different to Paris – they have their own customer profiles. This data analysis tool is trying to take that information and make it practical and usable.
It’s a tool that really makes the range review process much simpler. You can sort by price, sales, or whatever suits your need.
Why do you think travel retailers can benefit from this product?
Kevin: The current situation in travel retail involves those who don’t use planograms, who don’t know if there’s enough space, meaning decisions are made on the shop floor. With this approach, wine is a category that presents all sorts of problems – items are just put into available gaps and the lack of control means you end up with stock stuck in the warehouse.
There are those retailers that have planograms, but it might be the micro planner who sits with software and work out the store space needed. Existing software from other major tech companies will flag up if there’s enough stock but what Voyager 2 will do is create a strategic perspective to answer how much space is needed before you build the planogram.
Jilly: You can use the system to make sure you deploy your team accordingly. For instance, the appropriate goods can be put in place or the correct brand ambassadors can be deployed on the shop floor. It can be used to drive your business.
Who would use this tool within a retail organisation?
Kevin: Advanced analysis is key in any organisation but traditionally this has been about analysts using it and working with databases. We’ve created something that anybody can use.
We’d want to attach an app to it as well, so if you’re a sales manager you can tap in and see what the key destinations are in the next hour to find out what brands those particular passengers typically buy, and prepare your teams accordingly.
Buy-in will be needed from Commercial Director or Operations Director. Merchandisers and demand planners may use it, too.
Aren’t there some sensitive issues around data sharing within business?
Kevin: We handle data for a variety of brands. What we want to do is get to a point where we can build a desktop version of this, which plugs into an organisation’s data and stays within their environment. Everything is currently stored in The Cloud and we take data security seriously.
Our aim is to create a low-cost way of helping retailers better understand their data. I would love to turn this into a revenue stream for retailers.
Brands are crying out for data and retailers are saying “you can’t have it”. Voyager 2 has the capacity to share data which adds value but doesn’t necessarily give too much away. Using our system, you can start to see what additional products people are buying when they buy a Toblerone, for example. You can start building a picture of what a shopper is buying – and you can do that by nationality too.
“Part of me misses being a retailer. I’d love to set up my own shop because there is so much that could be done; I’d have a field day.”
What’s the industry reaction to date?
Kevin: There is one major retailer that has looked at it and can see the potential, which is fantastic. We’re in the process of setting up a trial so they can see what it can do.
Once one retailer takes it, it will suddenly open the door to other avenues.
My vision is to have every retailer using this tool. I would get really excited about working with a retailer and saying “let’s do some stuff together, let’s help you build a revenue stream from this”.
What else can we expect from One Red Kite in the future?
Kevin: Voyager is just the beginning. I’ve got a file of good ideas.
Part of me misses being a retailer. I’d love to set up my own shop because there is so much that could be done; I’d have a field day. There are so many ways retailers can generate revenue, and travel retail has margins domestic retailers dream about.
I’m constantly generating ideas, so it’s about test and measure. I’ve got a couple of solutions around how to optimise promotions so retailers can give discounts to the right people but not all customers. It’s focused on how can businesses can target certain people going through the airport – we’ll start talking about that further down the line.
What makes you a disruptor?
Kevin: What we do is very forward thinking and challenging; we don’t go by what’s always been said before. We are prepared to openly say when things aren’t as great as people think they are.
Jilly: There’s lots of back-slapping in the industry – and there’s no reason why that shouldn’t be the case – but we know things aren’t perfect. I think travel retail has a massive opportunity to showcase to Joe Public that it’s a far more interesting and exciting business than is currently portrayed.
We’re prepared to be a bit controversial from time to time. We also work on a bespoke basis to make sure what we offer fits a specific business. We’re more of a boutique agency in that respect.
Kevin: I think the time has come for the industry to turn around and say, “actually that hasn’t worked”, and be brave about things.
Adopting Voyager and similar technology will break open shopper profiles and ensure companies are being much smarter about shopper research.
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