Enlarge text

  • Print this page

Retail Academy

Heathrow airfield at night

Responsible Heathrow case study

Thinking of joining? Find out more about the Retail Academy

Customer service is an essential part of ensuring that passengers have a positive experience as they travel through Heathrow. Ensuring that retailers at Heathrow have the level of suitably qualified staff that they need to deliver excellent customer service is essential - both to the retailer, but also to the overall reputation of Heathrow.

“We’re not only concerned with overcoming barriers to employment, but also ensuring that a retail job becomes a sustainable career. Motivated staff who feel valued are more likely to provide better customer service; and the offer of career development is central to staff retention, which is particularly important for airport employers."

Brian Woodhead, HAL's Retail Concessions Director

Heathrow's Retail Academy was established in 2004 to support retailers due to challenges in recruiting suitable staff. These challenges were expected to increase with the planned opening of Heathrow’s Terminal 5 in 2008, as the number of retail employees needed to operate a larger 'five-terminal' airport was greater than for the previous four terminals.

The Retail Academy assists local unemployed and economically inactive residents to access employment opportunities at Heathrow, and supports them in gaining qualifications to further develop their careers.

The initiative provides local residents with 30-hours of pre-employment training. Those who successfully complete the training are guaranteed an interview with a retailer, although they have to complete equally with the wider pool of applicants.

Once in work, the Retail Academy offers participants the opportunity to develop nationally recognised work based qualifications so that their initial retail role can develop into a sustainable career.

The Retail Academy is overseen by a partnership that includes Heathrow's owner, Heathrow Airport Limited and local authorities, with funding support from the London Development Agency and European Social Fund. Heathrow provides a free training suite as well as financial support to enable the Retail Academy to operate.




  • Provision of rent-free training suite space
  • Retail Academy manager
  • 30-hour training course
  • Funding support from the London Development Agency and European Social Fund
  • Employment of over 400 local people who were previously unemployed
  • Recruitment savings to retailers of approximately £200,000
  • Improved staff resourcing levels and capabilities among Heathrow’s retail operations
  • Reduced unemployment and economic inactivity rates in comparison to sub-regional averages
  • Enhanced ability to attract new retailers to Heathrow
  • Heathrow's retailers now accept candidates that have been unemployed for extended periods because they have confidence in the trainings provided by the Retail Academy

Sustainability awards

Sustainability awards image