Inflight Sales Group is the original in-flight concessionaire with roots going back to 1982.
Since then, the organisation has been providing a wide spectrum of best-in-class in-flight retail solutions that make it a highly-valued partner to customers.
Here Breaking Travel News chats with chief executive Jean-Marcel Rouff to discover more.
Breaking Travel News: Can we begin with an overview of Inflight Sales Group? Where did the original inspiration for the company come from?
Jean-Marcel Rouff: I started working with the founder of Duty Free Shoppers in the early 80’s in New York and they were the leaders in the duty-free industry dealing especially with the Japanese tourists and tour operators.
We worked very closely with the airlines to cater the needs of those group of customers and I started flying a lot overseas.
I then realised how boring it was during the flights, how eager the passengers were to purchase goods from abroad, how sensitive the passengers were about better pricing and how appealing was the duty-free world.
So I thought “why not offering duty free service?” because travellers spent most of their time onboard aircrafts.
BTN: As airports have improved their retail offering in an attempt to capture more ancillary revenue, have you been forced to alter your proposition?
JMR: With the emerging online competition, airport promotions and changes in passengers’ needs, we are facing today a changing business model and therefore pricing in airline’s retail business has to be attractive.
In the past few years, some airlines put themselves out of the market due to high operation cost to run duty free business – bringing exposure to brands is no longer sufficient; the sales have to be good enough to justify the investment from concessionaires and suppliers.
BTN: Your operations were originally focused on the Americas, but have since expanded to cover the entire globe. Can you tell us which markets remain key for your operations and which you expect to grow in the future?
JMR: The Americas were a very good market back then when we were handling them.
Since 2001, other companies entered the market with big promises, but they could not sustain.
The failure resulted in disappointment to the North America airline’s management team and they later on decided to stop the services.
We have also been away from this market since a few years back as we see higher potential and needs in the Asian market instead.
We have then our base in Hong Kong and China and set our services there.
As for the future, we think buy on board and duty free will be tied together.
Duty free alone will only stay in the new and unsaturated markets and where airline managements will act as retailers.
The growth in the future will come from very service oriented regions like Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Philippines, China and Russia and as well as in some regional and low-cost carriers in Europe.
BTN: You have signed partnerships with Philippines Airlines and Aeroflot this year. How has your offering been received by passengers?
JMR: Aeroflot, as well as all airlines in Russia, have shown great support to us and the results are obvious.
We have our team in Paris to work directly with our partners Aeromar in Moscow.
Aeromar is serious about the business and we worked together on Sky Services Convention in Moscow to promote in-flight service and to develop ISPY in this region.
Our efforts resulted in great success in bringing together airline representatives and professionals from the industry.
Philippines is another growing market with great potential – people there like to shop and the airline is very supportive.
We have also developed a regional office there to serve and bring value to our airline partner and the passengers.
BTN: Inflight Sales Group has been recognised as both Asia’s Leading Inflight Duty Free Concessionaire and the World’s Leading Inflight Duty Free Concessionaire by the World Travel Awards. How did it feel to take those titles and how useful are they for the development of the brand?
JMR: We received this award with pride and this differentiates us from other players in the market.
With more technology coming in future, retailing onboard has great potential if airlines are to offer value to their passengers.
We are the pioneer in duty free retailing and will continue to be a recognized leader in the market.
Millions of passengers will fly in the future and we will be there to offer them new products and services.
I would like to thank World Travel Award for the recognition as well as our suppliers and airline partners for the cooperation in providing great services and values to people who are travelling.
For more information on Inflight Sales Group head over to the official website.