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Remy 707

(From The Moodie Report.com, February 2012)

Every year, bar one, I have sat down at the TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes and chatted to Beauté Prestige International (BPI) President Rémy Gomez. It is an annual meeting I look forward to eagerly – with its humour, humanity and insight a welcome antidote to so much that is anodyne and brash at a frenzied exhibition. Invariably our conversation meanders across many themes, from ballet (his first love) to rugby (a great passion) to brands and business – with a fair amount of philosophy thrown in along the way.

Gomez is not your typical CEO. Nor is any discussion with him a typical interview. Sometimes I play back the tapes of our encounters and wonder at first how I am going to turn them into a coherent article. Always the ‘outtakes’ and the off-the-record asides are the best elements. But then, slowly, the words take shape. And for five of the past six years they have numbered among my favourite interviews of the year.

The exception was 2010 when I missed our annual tête-à-tête because of a serious illness. Typically, the BPI President was in touch several times during my absence, expressing profound concern for my health with a rare blend of eloquence and humanity. I promised to be back, both for our annual meeting and, perhaps more importantly, for the Rugby World Cup final (in October 2011) showdown* that we both prayed for between ‘Les Bleus’ of France and the All Blacks of New Zealand…

I’m in Pontadarwe, Wales, a very interim Moodie Report Bureau (for me at least; it’s staffed permanently by my daughter Sinead) before I catch the train back to London today and start my last-minute preparations for Cannes.

Travel retail didn’t bring me to Wales, rugby did. But while I was here I met up for a delightful lunch (and rugby match) with one of my favourite travel retail people. Well, make that former travel retail people. My dining and sporting companion was none other than Rémy Gomez, former President of Beauté Prestige International (BPI), the Shiseido-owned designer fragrances specialist.

Rémy left the role in April after 15 exhilarating years, during which time his leadership made BPI a watchword for creativity and innovation. He’s been out ‘smelling the roses’ as they say since, enjoying his eclectic range of passions from art to meditation, ballet to, of course, rugby.  For Rémy, ballet and rugby belong in the same sentence. He pines for the great French rugby ‘dancers’ of the past, geniuses such as Jo Maso whose feet twinkled more than any star ever could.

Today’s game is more about almost impossibly big men, gym-hardened, robotic in their biff, bash methods. And yet, and yet, sometimes the old France comes out and plays (usually against my team, the All Blacks, it must be said), even pirouettes. Sometimes the gallic poet can still enchant, the dancer surface. Not so often, these days, alas.

But this is no nostalgic lament for a creative past. We had too much fun for that. To be in Cardiff yesterday was to be in a new-found Irish province, as the men and women in green claimed the Welsh capital as their own. The French sing well (is theirs not the greatest anthem of all?) but they were overwhelmed yesterday by the collective voice of the Celts, as indeed they were in the rugby itself.

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While I waited for Rémy in the restaurant (the excellent Casanova, within penalty kicking distance from the stadium), I listened to a ‘sing-off’ at the next table between a group of Irishmen (‘Fields of Athenry’ of course) and French (La Marseillaise naturallment). The Irish won it hands down. It was to be their day.

The good folks at Casanova kindly allowed me to bring my own bottle of wine in return for a modest corkage fee. It was a Minervois (an AOC in the Languedoc-Roussillon wine region) produced by French rugby legend Gerard Bertrand. A fine, rich and savoury 2009 vintage, it was bottled in 2011 to celebrate the *Rugby World Cup final in New Zealand between the All Blacks and their age-old rivals France. I was given two bottles after that match (won, controversially, by the All Blacks 8-7) and had been awaiting a suitable occasion to broach them.

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This was certainly one. And I can tell you the second bottle won’t have to wait long before it follows suit. You see, France’s loss to Ireland (9-24) yesterday means that Les Bleus will play none other than the All Blacks in next Saturday’s do or die quarter-final in Cardiff (same round, same stadium, same opponent as the famous French victory in 2007).

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Alas I will be in Cannes not Cardiff, outnumbered by around 76,603 Frenchmen to 1 Kiwi. So I’ll bring my second bottle, station myself somewhere quiet and unpretentious like Le Crillon (if you see someone blubbering into their Bouillabaisse you’ll know who it is and who won) and raise a toast to the All Blacks, Les Bleus and the unexpected friendships one makes through travel retail and rugby, sometimes both combined. And raise a glass indeed to the day when Rémy once again met Martin.

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bev blue

Meet Beverly Walker Johansson. Many of you will know her already. Beverly (‘Bev’) was one half of the great wife and husband team that made up the wonderfully named Imagination Unlimited International with her husband Lars, the driving force behind the extraordinary duty free success of Canada’s Inniskillin IceWine through the late 90s and early 2000s.


Lars sadly passed away in 2009, and is still mourned and loved by many, most of all, of course, by Bev.

Beverly lars_400_02

Like all widows, Bev has had it hard since but she remains one of life’s most vibrant, resilient, forward-looking people. Bev loves people and people love Bev.

So here’s the thing. Bev has cancer. Breast cancer. She’s public about it, upfront about it. She’s been through surgery and she’s now going through chemotherapy. Like anyone who has undergone chemo will know, Bev’s doing it tough. But then she’s tough. These are the hard yards but with every day that goes by, she’s a little bit closer to being well again, to beating the bully.

All things pass Bev, all things pass. I know. Five years ago last Monday, I had my cancer taken away in a seven-hour operation at the Royal Marsden Hospital. Heck, look at me today, I’m older and uglier than ever.

Before you know it you’ll be out hiking again and standing (not so damn close to the edge please!) on that incredible rock formation (below) in the wilds you adore.

Bev rocks

I tell this story for a specific reason. This month is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Readers of our media will have noticed that we turned our titles pink in honour of this critical initiative driven by The Estée Lauder Companies to help prevent this cursed disease that blights so many lives.

This year’s theme is ‘Every Action Counts’ and I salute it as I salute Bev. So I want anyone who’s read this far to carry out a simple action. Tonight, please, wherever you are in the world, across oceans and continents, light a candle for Bev. She won’t be able to see the candles but I tell you she’ll feel their warmth.


10 Responses to “Helping Beverly beat the bully: Why every action counts”

  1. virginie descamps says:

    Martin, thanks for connecting us to brave individuals and sharing your stories. Bev, we look forward to see next Spring in Florida. sending you light and warmth from our candles. Virginie

  2. Rod Wiltshire says:

    I will be lighting a candle tonight for Bev although we have never met. Six years ago I had surgery for prostate cancer followed by radiation and two years of hormone therapy. I have no sign of the disease today. I know several women battling breast cancer and I know they, and Bev will beat the beast. My thoughts are with them all.

  3. Patricia Bona says:

    Only Martin can call upon the whole Duty Free community to act together across the oceans and time zones for one idea! Yes we will light that candle for Bev, in Paris and later in Cannes. Bev, fearless and beautiful lady , we love you, we think of you . And I can’t wait to share again with you of those “ladies get together” that are so much fun!

  4. Bruce Losee says:

    I applaud the spirit that Bev shows and all the folks who rallied around her. Most of us have too many cancer stories to tell as its important that we all fight this terrible disease together.
    Get well… Bev… get well we are all rooting for you.

  5. Elyse Spiro says:

    Just wanted to say what a beautiful article of our Warrior Beverly.
    Truly moving and I will light a candle! I lost my mom to breast cancer a long time ago its wonderful to see how much further we’ve come and still to far. I’d love to see a cure that is much simpler and faster.

  6. Bob Albanese says:

    Bev, I just want you to know I’m thinking about you and how you must be battling. Know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. You ARE a winner!

  7. Linda Baxendale says:

    Bev is the sweet friend I have had since school days and to be reunited with her has been such a blessing to me personally. I was heartbroken that she had lost her beloved Lars and then had to contend with this monster called Breast Cancer. She is an inspiration to all that know her and those that have not had the pleasure to yet. She is teaching others how to continue facing life’s challenges, which I admire so very much. I will light that candle and say my daily prayers for my friend with much love attached. She has a wonderful spirit, attitude and will win this battle! <

  8. peter s says:

    Its just about turning dusk here in Singapore so a candle for you Bev is just about to be lit.

  9. jeanne brown says:

    I am Bev’s big sister. Thank you for your article. It brought me to tears. She is truly an amazing woman and I know she will have victory. Prayer and friends like you will help carry her through this battle. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart. Jeanne Brown

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If you’re having to build out a new dining outlet in a working airport, don’t apologise, make a virtue out of it.

Welcome to the Under Construction Cafe. I’m at Geneva Airport and pretty soon this place will look very different as the latest incarnation of the successful Montreux Jazz Festival food & beverage concept opens for business, courtesy of Caviar House & Prunier owner Peter Rebeiz.

None of the people you see in shot taking breakfast (and many of them breakfast beer – they’re a hardy lot these Swiss) is complaining about dining in temporary premises. The Under Construction Cafe is exactly what it says, a kind of pop-up restaurant that I suspect may be featuring on more than a few Facebook pages even as I write.


Last night I had dinner with Peter (below left, pictured with his outstanding chef) and Geneva Airport CEO Robert Deillon (right) at Caviar House & Prunier’s downtown outlet. What an occasion. Great wines, great food, great company. Peter and Robert (rarely for an airport CEO) are out and out ‘foodies’, a fact that will be emphatically underlined as the new food & drinks ventures awarded earlier this year come into operation over coming months. I won’t spoil the surprise, but I can promise you there’s some real excitement in store.

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I’ve set up a very temporary Moodie Report Interim Bureau at the Canonica snack bar right down the end of the airport in the B gates area before my flight home to London. This outlet is a classic example of keeping it simple. The offer is basic, but fresh, good and value for money. The service is quick, the staff friendly, the views (I’m up on the new mezzanine area gazing out at the planes and the runway) excellent. Shame there’s nowhere in the whole gate area to charge my laptop (now, like me, on its last legs) though, a perennial bugbear in airport food & beverage.




Geneva Airport has done an excellent job in reinventing its retail offer and food & drinks is about to follow suit. Needless to say the Caviar House & Prunier shop (separate from the soon to be revamped dining outlet) is excellent, one of my favourite stores in any airport in fact, but there’s also a lovely Swatch boutique (complementing the two upscale watch stores, Hour Passion and Air Watch Center  a short distance away); a strong boutique offering including Omega, Ralph Lauren, Hermès; a stand-alone Swiss chocolate shop; a separate and nicely open Lindt & Sprüngli store offering fresh chocolates; and (despite an unpromising location) a very elegant luxury beauty products boutique featuring Ioma, Tom Ford and La Prairie.

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Then there’s the Nuance (now owned by Dufry) duty free shop, a hit and (to a much lesser extent) miss affair. Hits include an excellent tobacco area right at the front of the store; a small but nice wine section (how good to see premium wines laying down rather than standing) offering a good mix of Old and New World; an alluring Lindt display (below); and about half of the beauty and spirits departments respectively.



Half? How so? Spirits starts well with a nice open upscale area with some great premium display but then simply gets squeezed by the physical constraints of the shop. The same for beauty which tails off after a bright, elegant branded cosmetics offer into a cramped, crowded back area of the store. Overall though, given the space and shape issues, it’s a pretty good store and certainly much better than it used to be.

Queue management is one of the misses as the pictures below reveal. I saw two would-be customers give up rather than keep waiting – a case of otherwise certain sales lost.

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I had a very interesting chat (at the Under Construction Cafe of course) with Sophie Reusse (below) who manages the airport’s commercial concessions. She’s really excited about the new food & beverage programme having put all the contenders through the most testing of tender processes. Not only did the tendering committee read about the proposed offers, they tasted them. How about that? The would-be food & drinks concessionaires had to present a sample of their menus to be viewed, weighed, tasted. Now that’s what I call an airport that cares about its consumer offer.


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[Cailler, the super-premium chocolate from Nestlé International Travel Retail, made its travel retail debut in Switzerland the day of my visit]








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On Wednesday night in Madrid, Guatemalan rum brand Botran celebrated its 75th anniversary and what an occasion it was.

The Moodie Report’s Helen Pawson and Sarah Genest made the trip to toast the milestone along with VIP guests including Spanish socialite Genoveva Casanova and Venezuelan singer Carlos Baute.

Spanish socialite Genoveva Casanova (left) and singer Carlos Baute found time to pose between cocktails

Spanish socialite Genoveva Casanova (left) and singer Carlos Baute found time to pose between cocktails

Surrounded by hundreds (if not thousands) of bottles of rum, over 250 guests piled into the glamorous Casino de Madrid for a night of rum, rum and more rum. After a Champagne welcome reception inside, guests were whisked upstairs to the spectacular rooftop terrace where world-renowned mixologists and bartenders shook up a storm with their Botran-based cocktail creations. And boy did the concoctions pack a punch…

Helen Pawson and Sarah Genest raise a glass of Botrán's finest

Helen Pawson and Sarah Genest raise a glass of Botran’s finest

To mark the special occasion, the family-owned brand has created a 75th anniversary edition which was revealed to guests last night. A blend of rums from private family reserves, Botran & Co is aged in ex-bourbon, sherry, port and Latin American wine barrels , featuring notes of apricot, vanilla and spices. Look out for more details soon.


The inside of the fabulous Casino de Madrid

In a poignant speech, Botran President and CEO Roberto Garcia Botran thanked his team for their hard work and commitment to maintain the standards of “the great company” created by his grandfather 75 years ago. Respect for the family traditions and original recipe are key to the company’s ethos and if last night was anything to go by, Botran’s grandfather would be proud.


Thanks to the the sheer passion, commitment and warmth of the brand and its team, it is no wonder Botran has made it to 75 years old and I don’t doubt that the rum legend will still have people dancing on the rooftops of Madrid in 75 years’ time.

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The recent story of German leathergoods brand Aigner is one of change and renewal. From being a name that was respected by an older generation of (mainly German) consumers, under the guidance of CEO Sybille Schoen it has added edge and recognition among a demographic under 40, with the Middle East and Asia now key markets.

DD Amanda blog

Dressed to kill: The Moodie Report’s Dermot Davitt with Aigner Inflight Sales Manager Amanda Garbarino

On Monday night in Munich the brand celebrated its 50th year, fittingly at its home city’s greatest cultural festival, Oktoberfest. Courtesy of owner Evi Brandl, the fashion house even had its own ‘tent’, where business partners from around the world gathered to mark the occasion.

Zahn blog

Eurotrade CEO Sven Zahn (centre) with Dermot Davitt and Travel Retail Business Director Nigel Hardy

We did so in true Bavarian style too, as the images show: every guest was fitted for their own Dirndl and Lederhosen, all the better to toast the proud heritage of a great German brand.

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Dermot Davitt with Gebr Heinemann’s Nadine Heubel, one of many business partners of Aigner to attend the celebration

As Ms Schoen noted on the night, “this is a once in a lifetime event” for the company. And Aigner carried it off with verve, style and a terrific sense of fun. Here’s to the next 50 years.

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Aigner Owner Evi Brandl and CEO Sybille Schoen welcome guests to their anniversary party at the Oktoberfest in Munich last night

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Aigner Owner Evi Brandl with Dermot Davitt on a memorable evening for the company

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King Power (Thailand) VP Merchandise Planning and Strategy Director Denny Hui raises a glass with Dermot Davitt on the night

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The Oktoberfest attracts millions of visitors each year to Munich for the 16-day event

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Meet Spencer Sheen. He’s the Head of Retail at Gatwick Airport, a great guy in our industry, passionate about his job and even more passionate about all things Welsh. Most of all Welsh rugby.

I last saw Spencer a couple of weeks back at The Trinity Forum in Hong Kong, where we discussed the Rugby World Cup and the chances of our respective teams, The All Blacks and Wales.


It came up that we would both be attending yesterday’s crucial pool match at Twickenham Stadium between Wales and home town favourites. With the highly rated Australians also in the ‘group of death’ (only two teams qualify for the quarter-finals), it was a match each side simply had to win. Throw in decades (nay, centuries) of enmity between the two countries and the stakes just about couldn’t get any higher.


In a crowd of over 80,000 people it was unlikely that Spencer and I would bump into each other on match day but indeed we did, in the hospitality area (I was there courtesy of former DFS Co-Owner Alan Parker) just before the match. With England the hot favourites at their ‘fortress Twickenham’, Spencer was putting on a brave face but may have feared the worst.

And, for much of the match, so did every Welsh man and woman in the vast crowd. England led for a long, long time, seemingly just out of reach of the injury-ravaged Welsh whose bravery under fire while men everywhere were falling wounded was like something out of that epic scene of the Welsh battalion in the movie Zulu.


And then something happened. The admirable Welsh playmaker Dan Biggar kept kicking his goals and his team stayed in touch. As the clock ticked down, the men in scarlet seemed to grow in stature, while the men in white retreated into caution and self-doubt. With 20 minutes to go, it was suddenly a four-point game. Wales believed.

Then the impossible happened. The young replacement scrum-half Lloyd Williams (only in the squad due to a pre-tournament industry to one of Wales’ superstars, Rhys Webb) found himself playing way, way out of position on the wing due to the spate of second-half injuries. Suddenly, with minutes to play, the ball came to him in a position more left wing than even Jeremy Corbyn will ever adopt and he hared down the touchline like a tiny, electrified Cardiff version of Usain Bolt crossed with a Welsh choirboy.

As the defence closed on him, he cross-kicked into the centre of the pitch. Pitch perfectly. It was one of those moments that only sport can throw up. As the ball bounced, everything in the stadium seemed to stand still as 80,000 heads turned collectively in the direction of the kick. And then, and then… oh my god and then… as the ball bounced there was another diminutive Welsh scrumhalf, Gareth Davies, running for all his worth, lungs bursting, reaching, reaching, reaching towards the ball… catching it, and diving, diving, diving over the line and under the posts for the try.

Biggar – bigger indeed on the day than any giant could ever be – kicked the points and then seconds later, kicked three more from improbable distance. Wales, somehow, were ahead.

But there was one more twist. Drama upon drama. England piled back and with time almost up, won a kickable penalty that would tie the game. Very kickable given that their own playmaker, Own Farrell, had been in peerless form all day. But, bravely, incredibly, perhaps stupidly, England spurned the kicking opportunity, opting to drive the ball into the corner and attempt to score the winning try. Perhaps the thought of only drawing with their age-old foe was too much. Perhaps it was just sheer desire to win. Perhaps it was a brain fade.

You know the rest. England won the line-out ball but were driven over the touchline by a now near-demoniac Welsh forward pack. The whistle went. The Welsh had won an almost impossible victory, 28-25. Sport at its most thrilling. Gladitorial. Thrilling. Joy. Despair.


It wasn’t long before Spencer found me or I found Spencer, I can’t remember which. I swear he was jumping higher than any Welsh line-out player had all day. If fate decreed that Gatwick was given not just a second runway, but a third, a fourth, heck a tenth, Spencer would not be a squillionth as happy as he was yesterday. I believe he may just have hugged every Welsh man and woman in the stadium. As I’d cheered for Wales, he decreed me an honorary Welshman and presented me with his scarf (after which many a sportsmanlike Englishman, I must point out, came up and shook me by the hand and said “Well done…”).




After I’d gone back to my host’s table, Spencer suddenly appeared with Tim Horan (below), the dual World Cup-winning Australian centre, who had been one of the celebrity guests at the hospitality centre and asked me to take a photo to remember the occasion by. It was my pleasure to cap, in the great Lou Reed’s words, such a perfect day, and to add a further Sheen to a day that Spencer, like millions of Welsh men and women, will never, ever forget.


Chris Robshaw_pool2_blog

[The devilishly difficult question every English rugby supporter is asking themselves today]

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One Response to “Welsh fightback puts the Sheen on a special day for Spencer”

  1. cliff nolan says:

    Brilliant daylight robbery by the welsh.

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Clad entirely in black. Peerless quality, brooding, select, unexpected. A true one-off.

Yes folks, the New Zealand rugby team – the famous All Blacks – have all those qualities and more (you’re certainly in for the unexpected if you get caught on the wrong side of the ruck against them). But despite Rugby World Cup fever taking over here in the UK, for once I’m not talking about the great game with the funny egg-shaped ball. I’m talking single malt whisky.

But not just any single malt whisky. This is The Macallan ‘reinvented’ as its makers have dubbed it, with a smokiness previously unseen in the famous sherry wood-oaked single malt. It’s called Rare Cask Black and it’s launching exclusively in travel retail where it’s likely to prove, just like the All Blacks, smoking hot.

You can read all about it here. Because of its rarity (Rare Cask Black is drawn from a production base of under 100 casks and this will therefore be the one and only bottling), the US$450 single malt will be a true collectors’ item. And we’re offering one lucky reader the chance to collect their own bottle.


All you have to do is answer three simple questions as well as the tie breaker below.

1)      Which high quality, select, exclusive, one-off, clad entirely in black, individual captains the New Zealand rugby team?

2)      Which high quality, select, exclusive, one-off, clad entirely in black, single malt is being launched by The Macallan?

3)      What team will play the All Blacks in the World Cup quarter finals – France, Ireland, Italy, Romania or Canada? (Anyone answering that the All Blacks will not make the quarter finals is automatically disqualified).


In honour of The Macallan’s provenance, what will be the score of the crucial 3 October Rugby World Cup pool fixture between a team clad entirely in The Moodie Report’s traditional colour of blue (currently a very bonny, unbeaten Scotland) and one clad entirely in green (that is currently avoiding Japanese food)? [Update: No, not Ireland as some readers have suggested… South Africa!]

To win, you must get the first three answers right. In the (likely) event of an All Black, sorry all-black tie, the winner will be decided on the basis of a) getting the winning team correct in the tie-breaker (or perhaps a draw?) and b) the lowest total points differential taking both teams’ scores into account.

Send your entries by e-mail to Martin@TheMoodieReport.com (or reply below) by 1 October headed ‘The Macallan Rare Cask Black’.

The judges’ decision (like the All Blacks’ destiny -Ed) is final.


8 Responses to “Test your cask strength: Your chance to win an exclusive ‘All Black’ offer”

  1. Tim De Brabandere says:

    Now with correct email account

  2. Tim De Brabandere says:

    1 Richie McCaw
    2 The Macallan rare case black
    3 Ireland

    South Africa 16- Scotland 26

  3. Julie-Ann Beattie says:

    1.Richie McCaw
    2. The Macallan Rare Cask Black
    3. Ireland

    South Africa 23 – 30 Scotland

  4. Randy Dufour says:

    1 Richie McCaw
    2 The Macallan Rare Cask Black
    3 Ireland

    South Africa 32; Scotland 18

  5. Tim Braithwaite says:

    1) Richie McCawesome
    2)the Macallan Rare Cask Black
    4)Sth Africa 21 v Scotland 18

  6. Lourens Roets says:

    1. Richie Mccaw

    2. Rare Cask Black

    3. Ireland

    Scotland 15 : South Africa 43

  7. Rick Ferracuti says:

    1 Richie McCaw
    2 The Macallan Rare Cask Reserve
    3 Canada

  8. James Murphy says:

    1) Rickie McCaw
    2) Rare Cask Black
    3) France

    South Africa 32 – 22 Scotland

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Blog 2

I am flying over Belozersk, which seems like a good name for my weary mental state. I am truly feeling Belozerksed after ten days in Asia dominated by all the mental (in every sense) pressure that goes with organising and moderating The Trinity Forum, followed by a series of key meetings afterwards.

When I land I shall read up about Belozersk, about Gatchima, Pushkin, Sosnovy Bar (I wonder if it’s open) and other places I will fly over tonight. I must be the only air passenger in the world who spends more time watching the inflight moving map than the movies. I love it. I want to find out more about each new name that appears on the map, to find out what the people there do, to go visit one day.

In a moment, my screen tells me, I’ll be saying “Good morning Boksitogorsk!” in deference to the late, great Robin Williams, that saddest of happy men.

Any of us in the travel retail industry should try our hardest to never, ever, lose the sense of wonder that we get from air travel. Think just how special our world becomes as we gaze at that moving map. And it’s not just flying on planes, but being in airports. Because from that sense of wonder comes the concept that we so love to champion, Sense of Place (I use the capital letters deliberately as I believe the notion to be critical).

Next week we will start a new series on The Moodie Report called exactly that – Sense of Place. I can promise you it will make you reconsider our industry and realise one of the most important ways in which we can differentiate ourselves from the likes of Alibaba, Amazon and Apple.

Airports and airlines are like no other place on earth (pedantics among you will tell me the latter are not on earth anyway. Fair point, for which I apologise.). When we are in them or on them we are not like any other people on earth. We are not even like our (normal) selves. Let’s seize on those facts. Let’s make travel retail something Amazon, for all its amazing reach, voice and efficiency, can never be. Sell me something that I can’t get online. Sell me it in a way I can’t get online. Sell me the travel experience. Make me part of it, make me taste it, smell it, sense it.

I am reading a wonderful collection of short stories at present called The Fiddler in the Subway, by double-Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Gene Weingarten. It is teaching me many things, not least how very, very far I have to go to become the writer I would like to be.

Blog 3

But that’s not the point. The title of the story that also carries the book’s name is the point. It relates the true tale of what happened when world-famous violinist Joshua Bell busked for 45 minutes outside a Washington D.C. subway station. Did anyone notice him? Recognise him? Appreciate him? I won’t ruin the story but let’s just say he didn’t get his usual standing ovation.

I suspect the same thing might happen if he played at, say, Piccadily Station in London. He might make a few Pounds but I doubt many commuters would stop to listen. Now here’s a thought. What if, say, London Heathrow was to let him play, anonymously of course, as part of, say, a week-long busking festival. I am prepared to bet good money (therefore, by definition, someone else’s) that he would earn much more, both cash and recognition, than in the subway. 

Why? Simply because airports are such extraordinary places. Not only do they feature some of the best examples of modern architecture but they also represent an ever-changing cast of characters and human emotions, from delight to despair, love to loss. As another rather greater writer than me nearly said, “All the world’s airports are a stage and all the men and women merely players.”  But oh what a player on such a stage Joshua Bell would be. 

On that note, I see that it’s time to say “Good morning Boksitogorsk!” Onwards. Another airport awaits.

One Response to “Good morning Boksitogorsk!”

  1. Matthias Moehring says:

    Dear Martin,

    my personal pet subject is airport architecture and I came across both your Moodie report and Moodie blog web presences when scouring the net for new developments in airport design, as clearly the layout and presentation of retail spaces are an ever more crucial aspect of airport planning.
    I am neither architect nor interior designer but ever since my first flight, I found the airport experience rather more fascinating than the flight itself.

    The penultimate paragraph of your blog entry here beautifully puts my interest in airports into words; if I could, I would surely fly to another city to just stay in the airport because it’s the most fascinating place there for me.
    So I eagerly await your new series, they will surely enable me to travel virtually through many more airports!

    With that said, please bear with me for the following observations.
    In the past few years, everyone from airport managers to architecture firms has sung the song of “sense of place” so insistently and overpoweringly that it comes close to being a hackneyed phrase already.
    Simultaneously, modern architecture as applied to airports seems to have exhausted itself in the provision of a curved ceiling, exposed steelwork in the form of roof trusses or mighty columns, and lots of glass.
    I am tempted to say that you could put together an airport with these architectural features, apply a modicum of thought to its layout and name it “Anytown Sense Of Place Intenational Airport.”

    I believe that a true airport sense of place blooms in the interstices of layout, daily operations and entertainment options and can offer enjoyment to those wanting to find it already.
    Take the Haneda airport international terminal as an example. It contains a replica of the most famous Japanese wooden bridge and a retail street composed of old wooden storefronts. In the midst of all of this is a purpose-built stage for performances and events. (Which feature mostly Japanese traditional performing arts.) Yet not this feature alone does the airport Japanese make. The synchronised bowing by staff when opening check-in counters, the astounding cleanness, the quick baggage delivery, the invariably fast and painless passport and security controls – that whole package delivers the message that you are in Japan and could not be anywhere else. In other words, sense of place.
    For a stark contrast, take Frankfurt airport. At present, it apparently features a be-lederhosen-ed (!) band enchanting (?) passengers with Oktoberfest oompah music as a walking act. As a German, I squirm at this blunt attempt of sense of place. Look around more closely and see Germany in the choice of interior colour (grey,grey,grey), the labyrinthine maze of largely neon-lit corridors, the often inacceptably slow baggage delivery (which, furthermore, sometimes fails to respect priority delivery). It looks and feels like a factory wherein the passenger is a production component that is efficiently delivered to the right place at the right time – ie, the right gate in time for boarding – if orders are obeyed (viz., follow all signs and blame only yourself for getting lost) and workers rights are important (viz., don’t expect them to go to greater lengths to expedite baggage delivery – statutory breaks are paramount). No doubt, you are in a place that thrives on a manufacturing, not service, economy – a sense of place of Germany.

    And so on, across the world: feel and sense it in the whole airport; not just in the presentation (traditional costumes?) and content (stuffed pandas in Chengdu, stuffed dirndl teddybears in Germany, Toblerone, Toblerone everywhere?) of the retail offer.

    Moreover, at least Atlanta and Heathrow airports feature pianos in the public areas. So you could send a world renowned pianist on his/her way to see how the experience stacks up against Joshua Bell’s Washington subway playing…

    Having strutted and fretted upon the stage for quite a while now, I hope to have signified a bit more than nothing, and wish you fulfilling travels!

    Best regards from Hamburg, Germany
    Matthias Moehring

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HK view 2

Well that’s Trinity done for another year. The Moodie Report Interim Bureau at the Intercontinental (superb hotel by the way) is closed, The Moodie Report Interim Conference Moderators are done, exhaustion replacing adrenalin.

I’m biased I suppose in terms of summing up The Trinity Forum but that’s balanced by a stern sense of self-criticism that normally leaves me with reservations about any project I am involved in, no matter how successful.

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[With my fellow conference moderator, and now partner in The Moodie Report, Dermot Davitt in front of a packed audience]

But overall I’m pretty pleased with this year’s event. There was a fine attendance (nearly 400, including a very encouraging number of airport executives), an outstanding speakers’ line-up, and the social events were thoroughly engaging.

Now it’s time to quit the part-time job of conference organiser  and focus instead on our biggest print edition of the year, our special Cannes show edition. It’s a War and Peace-like effort when all I (and I suspect my whole wonderful team) feel like right now is some peace.

It was great to see so many friends from around the world, and to make many new ones. Trinity has come a long way since 2003 when we launched it.  And so, if I dare to count my air miles down the years, have I. Now it’s time to spend some time at home. There’s a certain rugby tournament taking place and my beloved All Blacks have got off to the shakiest of starts. Better get back to support them.


[With organising partners ACI and ACI Asia-Pacific and sponsors at the Opening Cocktail]

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[SSP put on a dazzling culinary showcase at the Opening Cocktail, highlighting the best of its current and future offer at Hong Kong International Airport]

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HK view 2

I’ve arrived in Hong Kong, along with hundreds of other travel retail executives, for our annual Trinity Forum, organised in partnership with our friends at ACI and ACI Asia-Pacific.

The view from The Moodie Report’s Interim Bureau at the Intercontinental in Kowloon is stunning. The famed ‘fragrant harbour’ is right in front of me, the majesty of the Hong Kong skyline as thrilling as ever.

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I flew out of Heathrow T5, my second home, and was struck by the massive advertising campaign for the Rugby World Cup which starts in London next Friday. The multi-location campaign in the landside departures zones features ordinary club players extolling the virtues of rugby. A nice angle except for the excruciating ‘For 80 minutes it’s war’ catch line on one of the visuals (below).

It’s not war, thank you very much, it’s a game. War is an abomination and there’s way too much of it in our world.

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Staying with the Rugby theme, I popped into the temporary Rugby World Cup Official Store, which has just opened at T5. Oh dear, what a drab, uninspiring outlet, with a surprisingly mediocre range of merchandise. Where’s the theatre, the drama? Hey, one of the world’s biggest sporting competitions is coming to London and heck, the hosts might even win it (wash my mouth out with soap and water).

Maybe such an offer would do better on arrivals? It would certainly be nice to see Heathrow’s pretty dull Arrivals shop splashed in some World Cup colour.



[The best airport advertising execution in the world? I think so. Heathrow T5]

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[Two of my top ten airport shops - Smythson and Paul Smith, Heathrow T5]

Today, on the eve of The Trinity Forum I took a tour of King Power Group HK’s revamped duty free offer at Macau Airport with the retailer’s head of duty free and travel retail Sunil Tuli.

King Power has run this business successfully for many years but to its horror discovered last time around that the airport operator planned to split the concession into a two-operator model. Today was my first chance to look at this nonsensical scenario (similar to Auckland Airport). Is consumer choice enhanced by having rival retailers? Is pricing keener? No and no. Then no again. Someone needs to produce an economic case study on such critical questions before further airports follow suit.

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[The panorama above shows just how close the two retailers' stores are. An economic nonsense.]

In the glare of competition King Power has brightened up its offer impressively. I particularly liked the beauty area where the retailer has struck hard-won exclusivities with Lauder and with Chanel (Shilla/Sky, the other retailer, has similar exclusivities with the likes of L’Oreal, Shiseido, Dior and others). King Power’s was certainly the busier of the two stores today, with its high-end spirits business going particularly well. I also noticed an older Chinese woman buying an expensive Chopard watch with quite the largest wad of cash I have seen in a long time.

There’s a marked contrasts between the two retailers’ store designs but, the brand exclusivities aside, the offers inevitably mirror one another. How on earth does that make sense. Both retailers have done a good job but both are fighting for a fair share of a fast-dwindling pie. In the event of a sales downturn – and boy, does Macau Airport ever have a sales downturn – then the economic pressures on hard-pressed retailers mount to a dangerous stage. What usually happens next? That’s right, service levels are cut. That hasn’t happened here yet but the economic madness of the two-operator model will be to blame if it does.

Well, The Trinity Forum Opening Cocktail is just a few hours away. This afternoon we have speaker rehearsals, featuring almost certainly the most powerful line-up we have ever attracted. All the speeches are in. Bar one. And you know, of course, whose that is. I better start writing.


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