From the source: Glyn Williams
As Sydney Airport’s general manager of retail, Williams is responsible for all retail-related activities at the airport’s T1 and T2 terminals including leasing, development, planning, marketing, advertising and new media. Williams was previously the group general manager at D Property Group and has held various management positions at Westfield shopping centres.
Company profile: Sydney Airport
Sydney Airport serves 42 million passengers a year and contributes $30.8 billion in economic activity a year. Last year, T1 underwent a significant transformation, including the introduction of the 1200sqm Heinemann duty free store and a raft of new retailers.
IRW: What did the transformation of T1 involve and what was its aim?
GW: “The first thing we did was stand back and say, ‘What do we want to create as a product?’ It’s about creating an entire terminal transformation, so the process isn’t just about retail. It’s about the whole passenger experience, which we call ‘the road to runway’ and trying to speed up the process, so people feel more relaxed as they go through.
From a retail perspective, the retail that was previously in place was of a certain type of a certain era and since then, there has been a significant demographic shift that’s been created for numerous reasons. Some are because of the changing destinations where people are coming from and also where they’re returning. Others are because the expectations of the Australian passenger have changed in that time and they’ve experienced other airports and retail precincts globally.
And so we set about creating an entire reset in terms of where we wanted to take the transformation. T2 and T3 will undergo their own transformations in the coming years.”
GW: “I think based on the passenger, their expectations and how they’re coming through the terminals, the first thing we thought was, ‘Where do we want to be placed?’ We’re still retail, it’s an airport, but it’s still a retail dollar being spent.
When people think about great retailing in Australia, you might think about Chadstone in Melbourne or Sydney Westfield, and we want people to think about Sydney T1 in the same way. Because Sydney T1 is actually the best performing shopping mall in Australia on a dollar-per-square-metre basis, from a productivity point of view we’re number one. So firstly we don’t want customers to just think ‘Oh I’m at the airport’, but ‘Wow, I can’t wait to get to the airport because I know they have ‘this’ as a product’.
The next thing is that we wanted the airport to offer the best of local and the best of global. In terms of the best of local, we’re bringing in really interesting, really cool brands Mike McInerney’s Kitchen by Mike and Benny’s Burgers by Shannyn Bennett. We want to bring in brands that are great for Australia that make people go, ‘Wow, how do they get Luke Mangan in?’
At the same time, if you’re an international traveller, [those names] might not mean as much to you, so we have Wolfgang Bistro by Wolfgang Puck, his first bistro in the world.
Then we said we wanted to bring new brands to Australia, not just brands that are already here, where you just have to make a phone call and to get them in. So we’ve got Bath ‘n’ Body Works and Joe and the Juice from Denmark have come in at T2, which is fantastic. They may go onto 100 other stores in Australia, but they came to Sydney Airport first.
We’re starting to nurture first-to-airport brands so we can create a product that is extraordinarily difficult to replicate. One of the biggest problems with shopping malls is the similarities between them all. You may get excited that H&M has come to Australia, however they will be in 20-30 malls going forward. To me, retail is all about creating that product and that product position.
You previously worked at Westfield as regional general manager. What kind of insights and experience have you brought to the airport?
“Probably very little! The great thing about this job is that it’s of a global nature. I’m talking to people who’ve been to France, Hong Kong or Singapore, so it’s actually more of a global influence than a shopping mall influence.
I’ve had broad experience in retail developments and I think my learnings from Westfield Bondi in particular have certainly assisted. I would say I’ve been influenced by the concept of streetscapes and ensuring there’s no disconnect between the stores.
If you walked along Canton Road in Hong Kong or a street in Ginza in Japan, you’ll see each store flows into each other, and you have a beautiful streetscape. It’s a broad statement, but that’s what I’ve tried to create in our luxury precinct. And I think Westfield does that well in certain occasions, where there is no disconnect between stores.”
GW: “Through the duty-free store, it was previously about feeding everyone through a certain point and taking them through a journey. The purpose of that was there were far more touchpoints being used to engage with the consumer, but a good portion of our passengers that initially arrive do not wish to shop – they want to get settled, find something to eat. We were taking them through a journey they were feeling unhappy about, and likewise they were rushing through [duty-free] and wondering, ‘Where does this end?’
On the other hand, we had other passengers who planned to shop and were being interrupted by the people rushing past. So we’ve now put in a straight path and now, as you come through our security zone, you can see the commencement of Pier B.
[The change] was noticeable overnight, I didn’t expect the change to happen so quickly. People stopped running and began just having a casual amble. By having touchpoints all the way along the straight path and because people are going at a slower pace rather than rushing, the impulse spending has increased, because it’s now a much more casual experience.
Research shows that people are at their most tense going through passport check and security, because they don’t know where it will take them. At some airports it will take an hour. With the investment of the airport and the implementation of electronic gates, the average time it takes to get through has halved. That means more dwell time. We have up to two hours of dwell time now and people getting through the process are far more relaxed and comfortable, so it’s really changing the experience.”
IR: What’s the difference between traditional and airport shoppers?
GW: “The thing about the shoppers here is it’s still retail spend, but ultimately, we know who’s coming to the airport. We know their profiles in terms of where they’re going and what their nationalities are, so we’re able to modify our offerings based on that mix.
From a retail shop point of view, we pass onto our retailers all the information we can collate to assist them with how they staff their stores. They know when passengers are coming through, give or take 15 minutes, and they know where they’re heading, so the appropriate speakers of the languages are working in their store at that time.
Acknowledging the fact that we need to communicate more effectively within the terminals, we’ve now brought in a whole series of elements that are speaking in the languages of those passengers. We have electronic directories as you come through our orientation zone which is currently in four languages and we’re rolling out new languages every month at the moment. Our flight information displays (FIDs) that show you where and when flights are going are now in the language of the destination as well as English. So if you’re flying to Santiago, it’s in Spanish. If you’re flying to Kuala Lumpur, it’s in Malay. That also assists the passenger, it helps with relaxation and orientation within the terminal, which is key.”
IRW: How is the airport catering to the increase of Chinese travellers?
GW: “Firstly, we have Chinese-speaking people at our customer service desks and our stores. In terms of engaging directly with the Chinese passenger, we talk about all these experiences and that’s fantastic, but if we don’t tell them what to expect when they’re coming through, like the duty-free store, they may spend their money elsewhere. The key point is to engage with them early in the journey to get an understanding of what to expect.
We’ve set up our own sponsored website out of China, so rather than talk to the passengers from here in our version of Chinese, we’ve got a company in Shanghai that talks to them directly. We also have a WeChat page so we’re engaging directly with them.
We also know there’s the first generation of Chinese travellers who come in tour groups and that will continue to happen, particularly from secondary cities. There are also more and more Chinese passengers coming out who are coming in groups of twos, fours and sixes with friends. They have a very different expectation and do a lot of research. So when they start researching (we understand they do it up to six months in advance) when type ‘Sydney’ in search, up comes ‘Sydney airport’ and we’re talking to them directly to them from the very start of their thought process of visiting Sydney.”
IRW: Where do airports get it wrong?
GW: “When they undervaluing the requirements of the passenger. I think again, it goes back to working through the experience that the customer would like and in some respects, working within the confines of the basic structures you’ve got and other inhibitors, like having to work through customs and security. For me, it’s all about the passenger.”
IRW: Where else do you see a growth in passengers?
GW: “The greatest growth in percentages are out of Japan, US, the Philippines and Thailand, which may be ahead of China. There’s growth coming from all different markets and it’s crucial for our retailers, not just to rely upon one country or destination. It’s across the broad.
The Filipino shopper here is significant for us in particular. We’re hearing a number of stories in terms of how much the’re spending and the enthusiasm they have for shopping. It goes back to what brands are available at their homes. If we’re promoting something in Bangkok or Philippines for example, we may focus on brands that don’t exist there. If Tiffany’s doesn’t exist in Wuhan for instance, we talk to the Wuhan passenger, about that brand.”
IRW: What are your plans for T2 and T3?
GW: “We’re working through an expiry profile, we have opportunity in T2. We’ve already had a number of chances that have come up and replacing or renewing and we’ve brought a number of brands in that space which have been interesting, like Spanish label Desigual – that was their first store in Australia.
It’s setting the scene for a more urban lifestyle terminal. I wanted to call T2 ‘Terminal Cool’ and my marketer said, “That’s showing your age a bit it! It should be ‘Terminal On-Trend’ or something.” And so we’re going to bring in brands that fit the passenger profile for that terminal. It’s the busiest terminal in Australia – Virgin, Rex, Tiger and Jetstar. We’ve also got Lorna Jane who created the Living Room there with a yoga room so if you get there in time, you can do some yoga in there – it’s to create an interesting domestic product within that space.
Our food court, which we just finished upgrading, is getting a lot of raves in terms of where it came from and how it’s grown and includes some significant brands like Sumo Salad Green Label, Chur Burger and Joe and the Juice. It’s something I feel quite passionate about.”