Q&A with Rapid Retail Managing Director Nick Daffern

Nick Daffern, Managing Director of Rapid Retail, answers questions about his firm’s involvement with international stadia and how operations managers can increase revenue and offer fans and spectators a better experience.

Q: Nick, how would you describe your business?

A: We have worked with stadia since 2007, so we have had plenty of time to develop the way in which we work. Firstly, we are not just a supplier that builds and drops a retail unit or kiosk – we are problem solvers. Secondly, the types of relationships that work well are those where we have a relationship not only with the retail manager, but also the facilities people and the food and beverage guys, so the whole retail/queuing/food and beverage needs are examined.

Q: You work with stadia overseas, what element of this work differs from working with personnel at UK stadia?

A: Actually the requirements are very similar across the globe. What does differ is the business culture, and it is imperative that before you work with a client in a new country, you get to know the cultures, their likes, dislikes, and technical things, such as how they might settle their invoices. This is best done beforehand so there are no nasty shocks, for either party.

Q: What have you seen change positively since you launched Rapid Retail in 2007?

A: Worldwide we are seeing bigger and bigger stadia and those that are used for a wider range of activities, not just sport. It is not unusual now to see a political gathering at a stadium one day, a concert the next and then sport at the weekend. This has meant that stadia managers have to think smart to ensure they deliver an excellent experience to a diverse range of fans and spectators, while developing broader revenue opportunities.

Q: This must be a challenge for you, working with these differing requirements?

A: Any business needs to be flexible; we have had to adapt our products and services to meet these changes. It is not just revenue that is at the top of the list, safety is key, too. While we can’t divulge specific figures, we know that by spreading programme-selling kiosks around a ground for example, fans queue for less time and there is not a ‘crush’ at key points, something we are all keen to avoid. This applies to any type of stadium event.

Q: You have been working with French soccer club Paris St. Germain for many years, what do you supply there?

A: We started off developing one bespoke retail unit. It soon became clear that this was very successful and further units were needed, yet at the same time the units had to be more manoeuvrable. So my co-founder Andy Moss designed a kiosk concourse shop that can be easily transported, is strongly-branded and can be quickly opened up and then closed again at the end of the match. Paris St. Germain now has several of these (see below), they reflect the high end of the brand while being practical to use.

Q: Food and beverage is a key area for a stadium operator in terms of delivery to the spectators and revenue. What is your advice to improve both areas?

A: Frankly, operators need to  stop thinking  ‘traditional’ in terms of maintaining just one or two areas to eat and drink. It is far better to spread the load to several areas around the stadium. This not only reduces the queues, but reduces the numbers being served at each outlet, so the fan receives better-quality food and drink as the F&B operator is not so pressurised. One of my bugbears is quality; there are still some stadia where the food and drink service can  be improved hugely. Fans deserve to be treated well. I suggest that directors occasionally come out of the directors’ box and sit in with the crowd to experience the event at grassroots level; then make positive changes. Spectators have to be encouraged back and they will only do that if the offering is good as they become more discerning – there is a lot of competition out there!

Q: Surely, though, stadium operators have to keep a tight rein on budgets?

A: As with any business that is true and when you are dealing with such huge figures as a lot of operators are, it is easy to lose track of what is being spent and where. We have tried to help out customers by offering units to rent, not just purchase. This immediately negates the need for upfront investment, which is often a stumbling block, especially for the smaller stadia. On top of the flexibility with funding, we will take back a unit at the end of its life and replace it.

Q: How do you address environmental policies that are becoming a greater part of contract requirements now?

A: Our units can have lights powered by solar technology, so this not only addresses contractual requirements, but also keeps power bills down. Plus we recycle units where we can; it is something that is always at the forefront of our future developments.

Q: Finally, how do you envisage stadia will develop in the future in terms of retail?

A: As mentioned earlier, stadia are ever-increasing in capacity, so the need for operators to become even more flexible and forward-thinking is key. Why not put merchandising units outside the ground, so people can buy before they go through the turnstiles, for example? We are also seeing the growth of ‘community’ stadia and their needs to bring in revenue, in ratio terms, will be even greater; these operators need to look upstream to see what is working and then adapt a model to suit them. Whichever type or size of development, I am sure that we can help with advice.