Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
During our quest for remarkable stories from community members, we received a tip to interview Aircommerce founder and CEO Melvin Broekaart. His company specialises in Duty Free & Travel Retail, setting up retail outlets in airports across the globe. His knowledge of the business, combined with his experience working for international organisations such as Heineken and Philips, is what makes him such a highly motivated entrepreneur.
How did you end up at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol?
I started my career at Heineken, where I was responsible for the sale and promotion of Heineken in airport lounges. Part of my duties was launching the Heineken Bar concept at a number of airports. It's where passengers can really have an immersive brand experience. After leaving Heineken, I worked at various companies to gain Travel Retail experience and even lived in Brazil for a while. Because of my work experience, I know which retail concepts work at airports and which ones don't.
What makes Travel Retail at airports different from other retail types?
People who pass through airports generally have time on their hands. Passengers who have already checked in and need to wait for their flight need to find a way to kill that time. Waiting passengers become consumers as they shop, eat and drink. The brands we present at airports tend to be luxury brands. Their products are pricier and you are less likely to buy them without having held them in your hands first. The success of web stores has brought about a transformation in 'old retail', which I believe is a good thing. Although web stores are quite handy for a variety of products, the pre-purchase experience is still a big thing when it comes to luxury products and brands.
What is your favourite airport?
That's a great question, but not an easy one to answer! So many airports have their own peculiar charm. If I had to pick just one, I'd go for Singapore Changi Airport. It has made a lot of bold choices that have worked out well. For example, the floors are carpeted instead of tiled. Most people consider carpet to be less sanitary, but at Changi Airport, it adds to that 'welcome home' feeling. Additionally, it's full of plants and boasts outstanding food & beverage services. To top it off, the airport is now home to the largest indoor waterfall in the world and a beautiful swimming pool. These features almost give it the feel of an amusement park.
What is your favourite spot at Schiphol?
After Security Control in Departure Lounge 1, near Starbucks. You can take a seat and watch the passengers go by. Alongside the happy faces of holidaymakers, you'll also see stressed passengers attempting to reach their gate in time. It's fascinating to watch and learn more about the way we behave. There's a similar spot in the library inside The Base, from where you have a bird's-eye view of the entire atrium.
How is your own work-life balance?
It's OK, but also intense. As an emerging business in an international world, we're always 'on'. Because of the time difference, I often need to set my alarm for a call, but the advantage is that I can also be poolside on a Wednesday afternoon. I have a family with three children and a dog that I love to spend time with. In addition, I exercise at the gym inside The Base. The gym is only five minutes away from my desk, so I don't have to waste any time. The balance is there, as long as you guard it.
What is your experience with the Spot Schiphol Community?
I've attended many Spot events – sometimes by accident, such as the Valentine's Day lunch at The Base, but usually by design. I particularly enjoyed the Christmas dinner, because it was a convenient way to mingle with other people who work at Schiphol. At the Christmas breakfast, I arrived slightly too late, so I had to introduce myself to the people I was sat next to – but on the other hand, it brought me into contact with new people. Another good Spot event was the TEDx talk. You could really notice the attention that had gone into it. We have many things in common with the other users of The Base. To me, Spot is primarily a community where I can learn new things and meet new people.