Last year, Peter Marshall launched his www.trunblocked.com blog. It has certainly rocked a few airport and travel retail industry cages, as it deals head on with issues that are largely avoided by them and by the trade press. We caught up with him and asked him to explain the rationale for the blog.
Peter, what prompted you to create www.trunblocked.com?
Peter Marshall: I think I should have launched this well before last year. I have been in the B2B business for 23 years and have worked for clients in all key aviation industry sectors – airports, operators and suppliers. As you know, I run the industry’s video-only website, www.airportdynamics.tv, which has become a referential source for coverage of major new airport infrastructure and travel retail development projects. I also co-founded, and was publisher of, the Travel Retail Business magazine in 1997 (exiting 7 years later).
I believe in this industry, but over the years have witnessed an extraordinary amount of complacency, greed, lack of imagination and lack of innovation. When I had a heart attack two years ago, that really focused my mind on what I wanted to do and the sort of clients I wanted to work with. It also made me determined to express long held opinions about the state of the industry in a wholly independent way.
That’s why www.trunblocked.com does not accept any advertising at all – it provides my contributors with a platform for complete freedom of expression to air issues that need to be addressed.
So, what type of issues are you referring to?
PM: Principally, they are to do with the travel retail industry, which is such an important arm to airport revenues. It seems to offer nothing new in an ever-changing digital world, where increasingly discerning customers want more of everything – now. Everywhere you travel, you see the same categories and largely the same designs. Prices are far too high and customers are voting with their feet by spending less and less. The MAG should be changed to a different model. Where possible I think there should be greater direct airport involvement in the commercial area. By this I mean sharing the risk/reward of the commercial offer – like the JV between CDG and Aelia in Paris. Of course, this cannot be applied to all airports, but it should be considered by many in the 15 million+ passengers arena.
Is anyone listening?
PM: Difficult to judge, but the figures seem to suggest that there is a real following in the market for an editorial-only vehicle like Trunblocked. Views are regularly over 2,000 per week, including an average of 50+ CEOs and the numbers are growing. We cover 39 countries across all continents. I need to work on Russia, though, and may need a Chinese version.
Which are the most popular features?
PM: They tend to be those relating to retailers, or issues relating to new categories, new brands and, most importantly, tech. Tech is perhaps the most important area for trunblocked.com readers.
We do see some green shoots with what Heathrow, Frankfurt and Auckland are doing with AOE’s OM3 e-commerce platform, which surely has to be the way forward for this industry to protect and increase retail revenues. You have to look, too, to what is being developed by Singapore Airlines and AirAsia. But the entrenched conservatism of the business, and the push back from IT in many companies, actually precludes the speed of development required to stay in the game. It’s an issue of culture and ‘not invented here’ syndrome. I would argue that many airports and retailers simply do not have the internal resource to create what is required. They need to understand that they have to go outside, as well as fundamentally change the culture inside.
So, is trunblocked.com just a forum to criticise?
PM: Not at all. Its aim is to raise and discuss issues that are generally avoided by the industry. Effectively to try and change the current mindset on issues that affect day-to-day decisions. We try to be constructive and, critically, write in a serious but also entertaining way. I have been delighted with the contributors. Some have elected to write anonymously, it’s true, but that does not take away the value of their content.
You recently announced the inaugural www.trunblocked.com TRU-Star Awards. Would you say they were emblematic of what you are trying to achieve?
PM: Yes. Absolutely. They are a combination of serious, recognition awards, as well as highlighting industry lemons, together with the odd spoof. There are 19 awards in total, many brand-new categories for the industry, with clear reasoning given behind the votes for both winners and losers. The hope is that, for those nominated for the ‘walk of shame’, as it were, that they actually do something to change.
Do you worry about upsetting people?
PM: Not at all. None of the panel of 7 judges for the TRU-Star Awards knew who the others were. Their industry experience actually spans over 120 years and they come from all sides of the industry – airport, retailer, brand and outside consultants. Their inputs were wholly independent and uninfluenced, which is precisely what we aim for with all the content on Trunblocked.
Yet there was remarkable consensus in their responses. My view is that these awards should be taken in the spirit intended. Everything that has been written is true and reflective of individual experiences. Well, maybe with the exception of the spoof!
If there was one word that you think best expresses your attitude and character, what would it be?
PM: Well, one probably won’t do. Probably three and they would be: passion, perfection and perseverance.