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TR Go for Gold

As a seasoned entrepreneur, my definition of failure is ‘not having a go’. Does that make me a dangerous risk taker? I don’t think so. In my world ‘having a go’ always includes doing the necessary research, consulting with friends, family and industry icons, market research, creating a business plan, budget etc. etc.

I am naturally enthusiastic, and my glass is always half-full rather than half-empty. I like to think that enthusiasm, as well as being inclusive, professional, trustworthy, and demanding feedback (and being humble!), all make joining one of my journeys a decent bet.

My latest venture, the TR Go for Gold awards is as exciting as it is controversial. Creating a vehicle for good news i.e., an awards initiative of course is exciting, but the initial reaction was, “does the TR industry need another set of awards?” To which I responded, “absolutely when it has many value-added benefits, quality assurances and differentiating features.” Honestly, how controversial can you get by organising an awards without an awards ceremony?!

I am a strong believer in the saying “that there is no such thing as original thought" and I have unashamedly based the TR Go for Gold awards on the ‘Chelsea Flower Show’ awards format. At the world renown flower show, the organiser which in this case is the Royal Horticultural Society, award the show gardens and flower growers either bronze, silver or gold certificates and these certificates are presented on the opening day of the show. We will be doing the same thing- presenting certificates to exhibitors at the TFWE in Cannes later this year.

Getting ‘Gold at Chelsea’ is a really big deal and what all involved aspire to. If we can overtime develop something similar, then that’s what success looks like to me.

I was determined to make the TR GO for GOLD awards sustainable, relevant and quality assured to build confidence in the value of entering and receiving an award. This meant creating a transparent development process, which in simple terms ended up looking like the following:

1. Question: Who or what do we want to recognise?

Answer: Products sold within Travel Retail and the people who make them successful

2. Question: Why do we want to recognise the above?

Answer: To drive standards, aid business growth, provide benchmarking, create some news during these challenging times, whilst being mindful of resources and budgets

3. Question: What are we giving recognition for?

Answer: Excellence and best practice in four areas; Product development and design, Customer touch points before, during and post their journey, Doing the right thing and lastly, success.

The answer to question 1 meant that we needed to recruit the support and buy-in of TR industry and category experts. The final line up of our collaborators bring a level experience, knowledge and integrity to these awards is really provides the quality assurance I was striving for.

The answer to question 2 led us to making several key decisions; designing the entry form in a way that it could also be used as a marketing tool, providing awards at three different levels so entries were not competing against each other, instead striving to achieve the gold award, following the UK university grading system for under-graduate degrees; to achieve a bronze award would mean that the overall score achieved would be between 50-59%. To achieve the silver award the overall score would be between 60-69% and to achieve gold, it’s 70% and above. Presenting awards to winners at their TFWE stand rather than organising an awards ceremony demonstrates our understanding of limited resources and budgets.

The answer to question 3 required our TR industry and category experts to create a ‘Guide to Gold’ for their specific category. These guides give a brief introduction to the category, highlight what a brand/manufacturer would need to consider when developing a product suitable for TR and how they would maximise sales for it to become a best seller. It became apparent that this should also reflect what a TR buyer in 2023 would be looking for in order to list a product. This gave us another quality assurance opportunity, to ask TR retailers to ‘sense-check’ these guides.

We wanted all quality assurances in place and be ready to launch in time to present the awards at TFWE Cannes 2023. Having a clear plan that everyone bought into made this achievable.

Developing the judging criterion into an industry respected standard is a medium-term goal as we need to be able analyse the evidence provided within the entries over a couple of years to lay claim to our judging criteria being acknowledged as the industry standard.

To make these awards sustainable they also must be commercial. As a start-up we created a robust business plan and budget. We don’t expect to see a huge return on investment until year 3.

Finally, our initial success would rely on ‘visibility and awareness’ throughout TR . We knew we would be up against other more established awards which were organised by TR media. So, direct marketing and social media was going to be key. Our network and the network of our category collaborators needed to be maximised. Of course, marketing wouldn’t stop there the focus needed to shift onto our award recipients. Currently (WIP), this strategy includes, presenting the certificates on the first day of the TFWE, providing display stands for the certificates, and creating a ‘map’ of winners for TFWE visitors.

First indications are very positive but the proof in the pudding will be the number of entries submitted by the 3rd June.

Big ambitions I know, but as in the words of Walt Disney “If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started by a mouse.” A sense of humour helps too.

For more information got to

Disclaimer : Christine Martin works closely with JES recruitmenTR, a division of JES Travel Retail and JES.

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