A high flyer’s airport dream
CAIRNS AIRPORT IS IN FOR AN EXCITING FUTURE AS ITS NEW RETAIL AND PROPERTY CHIEF IMPLEMENTS WAYS TO MAKE IT AN ATTRACTIVE PLACE FOR VISITORS AND LOCALS ALIKE,
With a resume listing some of the country’s biggest names in retail, Tracey Groves had never really considered working for an airport, until last year.
Cairns airport’s new retail, transport and property chief commercial officer (above) is from Melbourne, and the latest to arrive on the Far North business landscape. She has big plans for the city’s gateway to the world. After years commuting for hours from Melbourne’s eastern suburbs to school and gruelling mornings spent at swimming training, Ms Groves rebelled against her parents’ dreams for her, eschewing university for a retail cadetship at Myer.
WITH a resume listing some of the country’s biggest names in retail, Tracey Groves had never really considered working for an airport, until last year.
Cairns Airport’s new retail, transport and property chief commercial officer is from Melbourne and the latest to arrive on the Far North business landscape. She has big plans for the city’s gateway to the world.
After years commuting for hours from Melbourne’s eastern suburbs to school and gruelling mornings spent at swimming training, Ms Groves rebelled against her parents’ dreams for her, eschewing university for a retail cadetship at Myer.
“I started on the shop floor learning the trade from the bottom up,” she said.
“Later on, many years later, I did an MBA, which was a bit difficult, not having gone to uni when I was younger.
“I spent 10 years in Myer and worked my way up from sales assistant through to buyer. Then my final role was in the new section of Myer Direct, which was really the start of online retail, but it was a mail order system.
“I was involved in setting it up. We really moved from merchandising in the store to learning how you put a photoshoot together and we were seeing we attracted more regional customers than city cus- tomers. It just gave me that more exposure to the retail industry.”
Setting up the retail offerings at the new Crown Casino in Melbourne also provided plenty of learning curves with Ms Groves creating concepts from scratch.
Once the opening was completed, a position at Shell was the beginning of a 17-year career in the petroleum industry.
“Shell wanted a retail expert as they were moving into convenience retail at their petrol stations. My friends were shocked. They said, ‘you’re moving from buying beautiful clothing to buying dog food?’,” Ms Groves said.
“I ended up heading up convenience retail for Australia and New Zealand and doing the promotional programs for the 2000 Olympics including the collectable collections.
“I was heavily involved in that and even got to run with the torch. I’ve still got the torch. That was lots of fun.”
A move to Singapore pulling together retail partnerships across the Asia Pacific and the Middle East provided a challenge in working with vastly different countries, cultures and retail demands.
I HADN’T THOUGHT ABOUT AIRPORTS BEFORE BUT I GUESS WHEN I HAD A LOOK AT THE OPPORTUNITY IT REALLY BUILT ON A LOT OF THE SKILLS I HAD TRACEY GROVES
Five years in the business hub of Asia also provided Ms Groves and her husband a tolerance for the humid conditions they now experience on a daily basis in Cairns.
Her first big coup for North Queensland Airports since starting more than four months ago has been luring Emirates Leisure Retail, part of the Emirates Group, to complete a refit of new bars and cafes at Cairns’ domestic and international terminals.
Ms Groves also acknowledged the need to think about bike paths and better public transport to the airport and has begun looking at the location of helicopter services for tourists heading to the Reef, relocating them to a more accessible part of the airport.
“I hadn’t thought about air- ports before, but I guess when I had a look at the opportunity it really built on a lot of the skills I had,” Ms Groves said.
“Emirates was a huge win. They have really gone into the retail area in the past few years and put some really great models in Melbourne and Tasmania.
“What I really love about them is the way they showcase the local produce. In the concept they come up with, the most important piece is they are really keen to ensure they have local products and services at the forefront.
“There are only 155,000 people living in Cairns. There are more in capital cities, which means you get a lot more choice.
“When you’re in a smaller population you have to be wary and cognisant of what the customer is wanting because they’re very discerning and if you don’t have what they want they’ll go and get it online.
“We’re gearing up very much to get lots of local customers and lots of international customers. That gives us a broad range of retail requirements, which enables us to have a broad range of retail options.”
RETAIL FOCUS: Tracey Groves at the international terminal at Cairns Airport, where she is the new retail, transport and property chief commercial officer. Picture: BRENDAN RADKE