March 31, 2023

Global spirits company Bacardi—best known for its white rum—is having a reshuffle across some of its leadership roles and among the changes will be the appointment of the first woman to lead the company’s travel retail business as global managing director.

Leila Stansfield, currently the on-trade sales director for Bacardi UK & Ireland, will take on the new role from January 2023. The incumbent, London-based Vinay Golikeri, is moving out of travel retail, after more than a decade in the channel, to take on the position of managing director for India and neighboring countries. Golikeri replaces Sanjit Singh Randhawa who will be moving to Dubai to become director of external affairs for Asia Middle East & Africa and global travel retail.

India and the United States are the two largest global markets for whisky—a focus category for Bacardi. In India, the spirit will see volume growth of 23% between 2021 and 2026 according to drinks analyst IWSR.

University of Cambridge-educated Stansfield has previous—though short-lived—experience of the travel retail channel having held high-level roles such as finance director (from 2015 to 2016) and marketing director (from 2016 to 2017). Perhaps more importantly, she has had senior posts in strategy development, reporting directly to the CEO of Bermuda-headquartered Bacardi, a company in which she has worked for 12 years.

Stansfield’s wider experience in forward strategic planning will likely be relevant to the travel retail channel as it comes out of a very deep trough, with shakeouts and some consolidation inevitable. For example, airport retailer Dufry is merging with Autogrill, and spirits brands are scrambling for passenger attention now that travel numbers are rising quickly after Covid. Stansfield said that once back in travel retail next year she would deliver “mutually beneficial strategies for growth with retail partners.”

A wine and spirits rebound

After two years of contraction, the liquor business in travel retail has seen a strong rebound this year for Bacardi’s rivals like Diageo, Pernod Ricard and Brown-Forman
. Bacardi, the largest privately help spirits company in the world, remains tight-lipped about its financial performance but it has ramped up its airport promotional activity this year, and will continue to do so in the coming months, in the crucial run-up to Christmas.

For example, for three months from July to September, Bacardi ran a pop-up whisky emporium at Istanbul Airport in partnership with Gebr. Heinemann and joint venture partner Unifree Duty Free. The venue showcased brands like Dewar’s and the single malts Aberfeldy, Craigellachie, Glen Deveron and Royal Brackla, complete with vapor infusion jars and a wax-dipping service.

A time of transformational opportunity”

Commenting on the executive rejigs, Vijay Subramaniam, Bacardi’s regional president for Asia, Middle East and Africa and for global travel retail, said: “Vinay has played a pivotal role in developing our global travel retail business. The past few years have been particularly difficult for this channel, and Vinay has successfully navigated the challenges of the pandemic. Leila brings valuable commercial acumen from across our business. This is a time of transformational opportunity for global travel retail… and she will maximize strategic brand-building and commercial opportunities.”

Bacardi, the most awarded rum brand in history, also has strength in premium gin with Bombay Sapphire
, the number one gin in travel retail in 2021 (by value), and in super-premium vodka with the brand Grey Goose, which grew by 68% last year (source: IWSR).

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