“Travel Retail will come back” Beam Suntory commits to GTR channel

Beam Suntory Global Travel Retail’s appointment this month of Phil Restall as General Manager of Travel Retail was the next step in its transformation of its global operating model.

In the works for a while, the evolution of its travel retail business was sped up by COVID-19, Restall tells TMI.

“At Beam Suntory, we have always been passionate about global travel retail.

Phil Restall, General Manager
Beam Suntory Global Travel Retail

While changes to our global operating model have been in the pipeline for some time, the coronavirus outbreak has allowed us to accelerate this plan and demonstrate our commitment to the channel and our customer partners,” says Restall.

“Our new operating model will be an exciting turning point in the transformation of Beam Suntory’s Global Travel Retail arm, ensuring the successful delivery of an exciting innovation pipeline – a step-change in this important channel.

“It will also support the company’s ambition to become the recognized industry leader for showcasing brands, partnering with customers, and driving mutually beneficial growth during the COVID-19 recovery period and beyond.”

Based in Singapore and reporting to John Rosair, Managing Director APAC and GTR, Restall took up his new position in October, moving on from his role as Commercial Director for Beam Suntory’s Australia business.


Operating Model Transformation

Under Restall’s leadership, Beam Suntory’s GTR team will be divided into three operating groups: Global Accounts, Emerging Markets, and a centralized Marketing team. This new model will allow the business to deliver enhanced support to its retail partners and take a more shopper-centric approach to brand-building across markets.

The establishment of the Global Accounts team, led by Sales Director Global Accounts, Simon Knapp, will provide comprehensive support to global customers, including Heinemann, Dufry, Lagardere, and Aer Rianta. The Emerging Markets team, led by Sales Director Emerging Markets, Cruise and 3rd Party, Ashish Gandham, will support the developing markets in travel retail, including the Americas.

In addition, a centralized marketing model and agile-driven approach will deliver industry-leading customer and shopper experiences around the world. This new centralized GTR marketing team is led by Ed Stening, Director of Marketing, who joined Beam Suntory in 2018.

Since September 2019, new roles have been created to support this new GTR operating model. With these expanded resources, Beam Suntory GTR says it is well-placed to deliver its ambitious growth plans and provide a stronger infrastructure for its mission to be Beam Suntory’s premium connection to the Global Explorer.


“Travel retail will come back”

Ed Stening, Director of Marketing, Beam Suntory Global Travel Retail

Stening tells TMI that having a dedicated leadership team for Global Travel Retail is imperative for Beam Suntory’s ambitions in the channel.

“We wanted to make sure we had a fully dedicated leadership team for travel retail and also segment our customers in the best possibly way. Because working with a Dufry and a Heinemann is going to be different than working with some of our other customers. They have different needs, lead times, ways of working. What we tried to do was match our customer’s needs to those different groups,” says Stening.

“We’ve been trying to build our processes around how we support our customers. We built an inhouse design agency, which allows us respond much faster and be more consistent in what we deliver. Because ultimately Jim Beam should look the same everywhere in the world and in the past it wasn’t looking that way.”

Stening tells TMI that the COVID-19 pandemic has justified the need for the new organization.

“When a crisis comes it quickly shows you where you are weak. This has allowed us to really react and support our customers. The operating model shows we are committed to travel retail. If we weren’t committed we wouldn’t be putting a general manager in place, and we wouldn’t have such a great talent base coming into this organization.

“Our leadership team has recognized travel retail will come back. And everyone will remember how we managed the crisis and people do have long memories. We wanted to show that we were committed to the channel.”

Beam Suntory is demonstrating its commitment to the channel with its involvement at the Moodie Davitt Virtual Travel Retail Expo where it will be introducing new GTR exclusive products.

Beam Suntory is a platinum sponsor and will be hosting three virtual events led by industry experts that will explore a number of new Global Travel Retail innovations and topics, from Women in Leadership to its first innovation whisky launch since COVID-19.

“At the Moodie Davitt Virtual Travel Retail Expo we will be sharing some of our innovations including our first GTR exclusive innovation since the pandemic happened. We are launching two GTR exclusives; if Beam Suntory did not believe in this channel those products would be going to domestic markets. That’s a massive point to show our commitment. Because we are going to come back. We have green shoots: Hainan is exploding, doing really well. The Nordics is doing well. It’s not all bad.”

The Americas region is not one of those bright spots, says Stening.

“The Americas is probably going to be our slowest point to return. But it is still going to be an important growth market. We hope the market recovers much faster than the data is suggesting. We are a big bourbon company and Americans love their bourbon.”

Beam Suntory Travel Retail is tailoring its support in-store to its customer’s needs, says Stening.

“People are looking at restocking their bar. So how do we support that? How do we leverage multi-packs? People pivot to big brands, they pivot to brands that they know and trust. We are very lucky that we have a lot of those brands.”

Well-trained brand ambassadors will also play a key role in the current and future store environment.

“It was important to get our brand ambassadors trained. Our team really tried to work on virtual trainings and leverage this time as best as possible. We’ve also been trying to change those trainings to make people feel safe and confident and still tell stories about our brands.

“We supported our brand ambassadors all the way through this process.”

While in-store tastings have obviously stopped, Stening believes they will come back at some point.

“I am 100% sure tastings are going to come back. It is such a part of our storytelling experience. When tastings come back how can we manage them in the most efficient and hygienic way? We are looking at ways we could do automated tastings. ‘Liquid on lips’ is such a great part of the GTR experience. I think we will definitely see it. What stage? When? Which nationalities? Which regions? Those are the questions.”

Stening says Beam Suntory has a lot of the answers.

“Beam Suntory Travel Retail has got the operating support. We’ve got the innovation. Ultimately COVID has just been a bump in the road. It really hasn’t diverted us from the goal. We still want to be that premier spirits partner. I hope our retailers will see how serious we are about this channel. This is a great channel to build brands,” says Stening. “And we are committed to the travel retail channel.”