ARI’s Jackie McDonagh: “Treat every customer like gold”

The reopening of The Loop international store at YUL Montreal-Trudeau International Airport by Aer Rianta International this summer with all safety protocols in place.

Since Aer Rianta International reopened The Loop international store at YUL Montréal- Trudeau International Airport in July, passenger traffic has not picked up to the level that was expected.

Fewer passengers means that sales are low, only a fraction of what they had been before the coronavirus pandemic brought global travel to a stand-still and closed the store in March.

Jackie McDonagh

But the passengers who are flying want to buy, and many of them are looking for luxury, reports Jackie McDonagh, General Manager, ARI North America.

While YUL Montreal is handling only 12-15 flights a night, mostly for expatriates and people with dual citizenship traveling to see family, McDonagh says that they are seeing much higher penetration rates than before and that the average spend is also up.

“The number of passengers coming into the store is significantly higher than what we were seeing before. Sometimes 100% of the people come in. And they are spending more money. Our average spend is up 20%. And we have people looking for more luxury: they are looking for more high-end fragrances, they are spending $550 on a Montblanc. We had a $1600 sale yesterday.”

It is imperative to treat the customers that enter the stores as special, she says.

“Our job in the travel retail sector is to lead the way and treat every customer like gold. If people make the effort to come into our stores, it is up to us to give them what they are looking for. We have to be more service-focused now than we’ve ever been.

This is even more challenging because our staff wear masks. We want to greet passengers with a smile, but it is a lot more difficult when wearing a mask.”

To get around the mask challenge, McDonagh tells her staff to be more verbal and use more questioning techniques to understand what the customer is looking for.

“We want every customer to leave our store satisfied,” she says. “We need to make passengers feel valued, and on top of giving them what they are looking for and service, we also need to make them feel safe,” she says.

The Loop has instituted several unique protocols to ensure passengers feel comfortable in the store.

ARI has staff demonstrating testers, for example, and using fragrance blotters to sample lipstick colors.

For sunglasses, a staff member will pick up the pair the passenger wants to see, clean them, let the passenger try them on, and then will clean them again.

“We are using a lot of precautionary measures and have really tried to adapt our ways,” she says.


New website goes live

In another positive development, The Loop’s new website at YUL Montréal-Trudeau International Airport is now fully operational, reports McDonagh.

The website allows customers to pre-order products online before traveling.

It offers a Click & Collect service through which passengers can buy online between 90 days and 12 hours before they depart. Passengers can pay online and select their collection point either before departing or when they return.

“The website is convenient and is also another option for passengers who may not want to enter the store,” said McDonagh.


Winter is coming!

With Montreal going back into lockdown in early October following a spike in coronavirus cases, McDonagh believes it is going to be a slow, drawn out recovery. It will be critical to keep a positive attitude, she says.

Concerned for the health and state of mind of her staff, McDonagh is looking for creative ways to keep them motivated.

“A bad winter is on the way and I imagine people are already a bit stir crazy after being in for the last six months. So we are having a virtual cocktail hour call for the team next week, and everybody who attends has to talk about three positive things that they are going to do to get ‘winter ready.’ We can share our ideas, and maybe by the time the call is over we will have five things to help get us through. A team call like this is very positive.

“And we will follow up with calls to see how everyone is getting on. We really are all in this together,” she says.