Pleas please me, says the man from Mars

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.
Martin Moodie

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Here’s another example of the Trinity at work – and of how small airports can outshine their bigger cousins in retail terms. Our image comes from Tax Free Asia Pacific in Singapore where confectionery house Mars hosted its first-ever Indian Travel Retailer of the Year award.

The award was made by Stuart Bull – the gentleman wearing the quietly understated M&M’s tie in the background (as the sponsor of this BLOG, he’s surely entitled to a little product placement -Ed) – the company’s ever-present International Travel Retail consultant.

And making up this tasty Trinity of conspicuous confectionery consumption are Paul Topping, Managing Director of Alpha Asia (left) and his local partner in Alpha Kreol, AS Lal (second from left) as well as V Suresh Babu, General Manager (Commercial) for Cochin International Airport.

Though the award lunch was a nicely informal one, there was a serious point at stake. Alpha Kreol and Cochin Airport had not only understood the value of the confectionery category – still too often a poor relation in some of the world’s otherwise best travel retail environments – but they had invested in it.

Noted Stuart Bull: “In the late 1980s and early 1990s I could see that there was an opportunity to sell top confectionery brands to returning Indian travellers – on arrival – but my pleas fell on deaf ears and that opportunity was never taken.”

Except for one retailer – Alpha Kreol. The pioneer of international standard airport retailing in India had listened to the pleas. In particular it had focused on stocking (and keeping stocked) international brands, and keeping them fresh and in optimum condition so that they could walk rather than drip off the shelves.

Pricing, too, was key – given the volume of business done with returning off-shore workers, the real competition lay with Gulf airports such as Dubai, so Alpha Kreol ensured its retails were pitched right.

There have arguably been more false dawns in Indian duty free than in the history of Bollywood. But Stuart Bull is convinced that this time around daylight may finally be breaking – and for that he gives immense credit to Alpha Kreol and Cochin Airport.

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