What is an Airport Retail Store Manager’s Job Description?
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Shriram: I have been working for the Airport Operator (BIAL) for three years now. When I joined we did not have a floor plan of retail stores in the airport, so my first assignment was to develop one. I worked very closely with our senior management to design the retail shop floor plans, and choose the retail and food and beverage providers that would span across the 6,000 square meters of the airport terminal.
When completed and inaugurated in May 2008, our Bangalore India airport had one of the largest, and probably one of the best retail shop floor plans of any Indian airport, as well as some of the world's best retail, food and beverage operators. The Nuance Group and HMSHost respectively, are our master concessionaires, and they have been doing a splendid job over the past few months.
We are also one of the first airports in India to work on a revenue share model, meaning the concessionaires pay us a minimum guaranteed amount or a percentage of their revenue turnover - depending on which is higher. My job manages this aspect of the operation. Each coffee, muffin, beer, t-shirt, and accessory that is sold gives us higher revenue. We achieve this system by working very closely with all our concessionaires. Whether it is baggage wrapping, or duty free, we put forth equal effort and enthusiasm when working with our partners.
I am also responsible for the small business retail marketing plans and strategies for increasing retail business. Our marketing audience includes the general public who have limited shopping and dining facilities in the common areas, as well as to traveling passengers (much in advance of their travel). We use various promotions and strategies for increasing retail business in the airport. One such activity is our airport shopping promotion in India - planned to begin in May of 2009. During this period, passengers and visitors who spend a certain amount can participate in a raffle and win exciting prizes like holiday packages and airline tickets. We are working on this and are waiting for this grand experience to commence.
PayScale: How did you begin your career as an airport retail store manager?
Shriram: I was recruited in my present company through an employee referral. Before I was appointed formally, I made up my mind to take up this exciting career - one of its kind in India, and a very coveted job as well. I have been working in retail for over eight years now but even before I joined here, I was sure I wanted to continue my career in the same Industry - organized retail. (In India, less than 10% of the total retail industry is organized.)
Airport retail provided me an opportunity to work in a very niche area where I had more opportunities to experiment with unconventional methods, and excel in this growing industry. Also, I have had a fascination with aviation since childhood!
PayScale: What do you love about your job as an airport retail store manager?
Shriram: It may sound a bit mundane, but for me, everyday is a new day: new consumers, new aspirations, and new opportunities to sell. Unlike downtown shopping centers, airport retail areas do not attract a captive shopping crowd. Instead, we are here targeting the traveling passengers, and their travel necessities from coffee, tea, and food, to luxury products like watches, diamonds, and duty free products. The mindset of such consumers is quite different at airports, so the requirements for airport managers are also different. It is important to show the value in each product. It becomes quite challenging to communicate this to every passenger, everyday. This is the most exciting part of my job.
PayScale: What are the biggest challenges you face as an airport retail store manager?
Shriram: People DO NOT COME TO AIRPORTS TO SHOP! Rather, the main reason why they pass through the airports is to transit from point A to point B. The challenge is during their dwell time (at the airport), how can one motivate them to shop, dine, and enjoy the offerings and services at the airport—this is the key challenge in this business. It is important to look at every passenger everyday and ask yourself; “What is holding me back from selling something to that person today?”
Not only is this challenging, but also unrealistic. So, passengers must be grouped and we must try to understand their needs and preferences. Experience is the mother of all learning in our business. While the excitement lingers on every moment that we spend at work, the challenge to conquer our consumers’ minds is not as easy as it seems. One must have a sound understanding of the retail business in their respective location, and also have an in-depth knowledge of what the market demands and how to supply those needs.
PayScale: What advice can you offer to someone in your field?
Shriram: Retail provides employment opportunities to the masses in many countries worldwide, including India. However, airport retail is a niche industry. To get in is not always as easy because there are limited roles, and a lot of competition. But when one gets an opportunity, it is ideal to take it, as one can make a mark for oneself within this industry. Most of the learning is on the job, although one may have a certain experience elsewhere. The most important thing is to have the ability to unlearn certain ideas and consider new ideas and thoughts - to think outside the box.
PayScale: Could you tell us about some interesting moments that you’ve experienced during your career as an airport retail store manager?
Shriram: We sell at least four to five diamonds every day, and it has been like this consistently for the past 10 months at our airport! What's interesting is that passengers were in for a mild shock when we opened our airport - being pleasantly surprised to see world-class retail facilities, internationally styled food joints, bars, etc. Many shared their views through various sources such as blogs, write-ups and feedback forms. The most interesting part is that many designer/premium brands that I was negotiating with two years ago and were not interested at the time, have now realized the worth of our retail space - and this is mainly due to our consumers.