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Last Saturday the All Blacks and the Wallabies (for the uninitiated, the national rugby teams of New Zealand and Australia) played out a nail-biting 12-12 draw in Sydney, in conditions straight out of the bleakest mid-winter scenes of ‘March of the Penguins’.

In pulling off the draw, the (delete expletives here) Aussies stopped the All Blacks from securing a world record 18 consecutive victories. Sport, as ever, can be cruel and the margins between happiness and heartbreak tiny.

As fortune would have it, just two days later as my depression was starting to lift, I was the guest at another head-to-head showing of Australasian (or as we Kiwis say, NewZealandOzasian) excellence, this time born not from Antipodean sporting fields but of the two countries’ respective vineyards.

The wineries were Craggy Range. which produces stunning wines out of Martinborough and Hawkes Bay in New Zealand, and Taylors, which makes an outstanding array of wines out of the beautiful Clare Valley in South Australia.

The tasting (more of that later) was arranged by the irrepressible Barry Geoghegan, Founder & Managing Director of Barry Global Innovation, a specialist wine company operating out of Ireland (it would be wrong, simply wrong of a Kiwi to make any cheap rugby jokes at Ireland’s expense here so I won’t, though if you want one click here), which is determined to raise wine’s profile in travel retail.

The venue was the London headquarters of famed French wine house Louis Latour (which represents both wineries in the UK) and on hand with Barry and me were Craggy Range Sales Director Warren Adamson; Taylors Wines Head of Export Sales Neil Hadley MW; and Laura Klingeman  of Seva Group (based in The Netherlands), which will be selling the wines into Latin America travel retail (Barry represents them on a global travel retail basis).

Make no mistake about the significance of companies such as Craggy Range and Taylors targeting travel retail. As I have suggested repeatedly, wine’s time as a category has finally arrived in our channel. For so long it was dismissed as a low-margin, irrelevant category in duty free. Try telling that to DFS at Hong Kong Kong International Airport, where the retailer generates an average transaction value of US$95 on wine – only about US$5 below that of spirits. That’s what can be done when you offer serious wines presented in a serious way. Yet often, way too often, I see wine displays in airport shops that would embarass the cheapest local market discount retailer.

As I write this, we have hit deadline on our weekly e-Newsletter so I’ll have to stop and go ‘live’ as we say in the publishing business with this preview of the whole Blog. Stay tuned for my tasting notes and some important observations from Neil, Warren and Barry about the future for fine wine in travel retail. And read how a second draw between two Southern Hemisphere giants in the space of three days occurred.

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Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Photoshoot

Is it a horse? A camel? A Dubai Duty Free-sponsored hybrid?

No it’s the world’s first-ever ‘human racehorse’,  conceived to celebrate the world’s premier international jockeys’ competition, today’s Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup at Ascot Racecourse near London.

The giant horse (pictured ‘ridden’ by German jockey Steffi Hofer passing the Ascot winning post) is composed of ten acrobats (see how many you can spot. I’m still trying to figure out which is Colm McLoughlin and which is George Horan).

It took seven hours to create the figure, including five hours for hair and make-up (about the same time it takes me), ultimately creating a six-feet (unlike most horses who only have four) high equine look-alike.

Ascot Racecourse enlisted a team of talented contortionists courtesy of Scarlett Entertainment, and used make-up artists, Civilised Mess, to transform the human bodies using detailed animal artwork. Civilised Mess has previously created designs for Cirque Le Soir and Slamboree.

Now in its 14th year, the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup sees four teams (Great Britain & Ireland, Europe, the Rest of the World and The Girls) of top international jockeys seeking victory by collectively acquiring the most number of points for their team across the six-race card.

Footnote: To stirrup some further interest in this Blog and after a quick Gallop Poll, I’ve decided to add my five favourite Dubai Duty Free-related horse jokes of all time, none of them, I promise, created on the hoof. Here we go:

1) A poorly-looking horse recovering from a heavy night out with Peter Sant and the  Rémy Cointreau travel retail team and the Dubai Duty Free management limps into a bar with a bandage round his head. He orders  a flute of beautifully chilled Piper Heidsieck Champagne, a large balloon glass of Rémy Martin XO and, incredibly, a pint of Cointreau.

He downs  the lot and says to the barman: “I shouldn’t really be drinking this with what  I’ve got?”

“Why, what have you got?”

“About $2 and a carrot!”

2)  Dubai Duty Free Executive Vice Chairman Colm McLoughlin buys a crocked old racehorse and takes it to the vet.

“Will I be able to race this horse  again?” Colm asks.

The vet replies: “Of course, and you’ll probably win.”

3)  A White Horse walks into a pub at Dubai International Airport and asks for a whisky.

The barman says: “Hey,  did you know that Dubai Duty Free sell a whisky named after you.”

The horse replies: “What, Eric?”

4) A Dubai Duty Free executive on an Emirates plane back from the Cannes show wakes up and sees a horse sitting next to him, watching the inflight movie.

“Are you really a horse?” asks the retailer, clearly shocked.

“Yes.”

“Then what are you doing watching an inflight movie?”

The horse replies, “Well, I liked the book.”

5)  Dubai Duty Free President George Horan loses his favourite Montblanc briefcase while doing a store check at Dubai International Airport.

Three weeks later, a horse walks up to him in Concourse A carrying the briefcase in its mouth.

George can’t believe his eyes.

He takes the briefcase out of the horse’s mouth, raises his eyes heavenwards and exclaims, “It’s a miracle!”

“Not really George,” says the horse. “Your initials are engraved on the briefcase.”

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I have been challenged by several Irish travel retail executives to write this story, and write it I shall…

Above is the headline many Irish men and women thought they would never read. It’s certainly one that Irish friends of mine in travel retail thought I’d never write.

I had, after all, regaled all who wanted to listen (and many more who didn’t) about the magnificent combination of triumph, tragedy, perfection, pathos, delight and despair on show in the extraordinary contest between my beloved All Blacks and the most super-charged, sublime and, you’d swear, shillelagh-wielding Irish team you ever could hope to see in Dublin on 24 November 2013.

To recap. Ireland have never beaten the All Blacks. Never, I mean in the purest sense of the word – i.e. not ever. But on that crisp winter’s day in Dublin the men in green were possessed of a spirit (and ability) so great that it seemed undeniable, irressistible, even to the legendary men in black from the land of the long white cloud.

But deny and resist they did. Having trailed for precisely 79 minutes and 26 seconds (a rugby match is supposed to last exactly 80 minutes), the All Blacks secured the ball, interchanged it with the precision of a heart surgeon’s hands nearly 40 times between huge Kauri tree man-mountains and whippet-lean dancing sorcerors before striking a collective dagger through the heart of all Ireland with the winning try in the corner after two minutes and 34 seconds of sport dressed up as ballet, brilliance and brute force.

I had been invited to that game by Aer Rianta International CEO Jack MacGowan but could not attend due to other commitments. “Lucky you didn’t make it,” he muttered to me on the Monday, “you may have been strung up.” I didn’t sense much levity in his voice.

Working on the perhaps unwise theory that if you see a wound it’s worth pouring a litre or two of salt on it, I subsequently offered a limited-edition DVD of the match in a readers’ competition. Not just limited but also condensed – to the final 2 minutes and 34 seconds, of course. And here’s the thing, I received more abuse (good-natured to be fair) than I did entries. (By the way if you have not seen the footage, here it is https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=All+Blacks+vs+Ireland+2013+final+try - I have just watched it again, twice, to verify its quality…)

But as my dear old Ma no less, used to say of me and my Celtic skin and (alas, now long-gone) blonde hair, “You’re nothing if not fair Martin.” And so, in honour of that Dublin-born lass, Mary Madeleine Sophie O’Neill, I shall indeed be fair (I was going to say return to my roots but I don’t have any) and report another epic story from the weekend, when the Irish rugby team did indeed finally beat the black-clad Kiwis, by 17 points to 14.

Again it was 80 minutes of intense combat and unimaginable tension. Again it all came down to the final minutes. However, this time, at last, it was the Irish eyes that were smiling. But these were very different teams from those that played at Landsdowne Road in 2013. For one thing, these Kiwis were called the Black Ferns not the All Blacks. For another, both they and the magnificent team in green were made up of women not men. The occasion was a critical meeting at the Women’s Rugby World Cup in France, where perennial champions New Zealand were hot favourites to win again.

Not if the Irish had anything to do with it. And boy did they have plenty to do with it. “Heroic” said one headline. “Historic,” screamed another.

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Both terms were eminently justifiable. But personally, I loved the more modest response of Ireland captain Fiona Coghlan, who said: “It’s absolutely wonderful to win against the world champions. Tonight we’ll go out and enjoy a beer, then tomorrow we’ll start getting ready again for Kazakhstan.”

A beer followed by a visit to a distant Central Asia republic? No, the reference to Kazakhstan was simply to the women in greens’ next match. I’m willing to stake my house on them winning by over 60 points. But (my mother may have been Irish but my blood runs neither red nor green but black) I will then place all my winnings back on the Black Ferns to rise not like a flightless Kiwi bird but like a phoenix, from the ashes of defeat to the mountain crest of champions.

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2 Responses to “Mighty Irish too good for New Zealand in rugby classic”

  1. m burke says:

    never knew you were interested in rugby Marcus !

  2. Marcus Griffin says:

    Hi Martin, fair play, and we could say that we in Donegal, my home county, helped you guys (all Blacks) along the way, with our very own David “Dave” Gallaher (30 October 1873 – 4 October 1917) as you know he was one of your great New Zealand rugby union footballer, best known as the captain of “The Originals” that toured Europe and North America in 1905 and 1906 – the first New Zealand national rugby union team to be known as the All Blacks. Gallaher was born in Ramelton, County Donegal, Ireland, & emigrated to New Zealand with his family as a child. Keep up the banter. Marcus

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Today bull by the horns

[MM with store designer/planner Alex Cook (right) and an unnamed carabao (centre, though you probably realised that)]

Sometimes you’ve just got to take the bull (or in this case the water buffalo, called a carabao in Guam) by the horns.

I’m back in London following a whistlestop visit to Guam and South Korea. But brevity does not equate to lack of substance. What a simply amazing (but not amazingly simple) few days. I’ve had the chance to meet new and emergent Korean duty free retailers in Seoul; catch up with the great commercial team at Incheon International Airport; to see (and be surprised by) Lotte Duty Free’s excellent new retail complex at Guam A.B. Won Pat International Airport; and to snatch some time with long-term industry friends.

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People often ask me how a man of my advanced years (they sometimes use less polite terms than ‘advanced’) stays on the road (well, technically in the air) for as much as I do, for as long as I do. Besides the obvious answer that it is all down to the excellent quality of the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc that I imbibe, the truth is twofold.

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Firstly, I am a passionate advocate of 1Above, a ‘healthy flying’ aerotonic drink produced by a New Zealand company of the same name (it has its own retail outlets at Auckland Airport, pictured above, and is now sold through Relay in other Australasian gateways).  It is rather better at keeping you hydrated than my usual blend of grape juice and water and it helps enormously with sleep patterns across time zones. What happened last week when I forgot to take it en route to the mid-Pacific? Answer: Sleepless in sea… surrounded Guam. Lesson learned.

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Secondly, and more importantly, I simply love what I do. As I’ve said before, I find the whole airport and airline world magical, including critical sub-sectors such as travel retail, food & beverage and airport advertising (my own variation on the train-spotting syndrome – I am endlessly fascinated by the great panoramas and positioning of airport ads – see below for a great example from Lotte Department Store at Incheon International Airport. Talk about power of impact.).

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I’ve always tried my hardest to capture that magic, and indeed my own (as the great Van Morrison would put it) sense of wonder, especially in this Blog. And on that note, I was delighted (but also sad, for reasons I shall come to) to receive the following e-mail from Julie-Ann Beattie (below), Manager Retail Development, at Christchurch Airport, which is of course my home town airport, the place from whence I left on my great life journey all those years ago in 1987.

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Alas, Julie-Ann, who has done a fabulous job through some of the most testing conditions any airport executive could have  faced (the impact of the two devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011), was writing to tell me she was moving on to a new challenge. But she also wrote some words which meant a lot to me, and I hope she will forgive me for quoting them here: “Hi Martin, I will miss the world of airports dreadfully and will continue to be an avid reader of all The Moodie Reports and Blogs – as there is no other industry quite like airports.  And with your insight and contact, you have the amazing knack of transporting those at the bottom of the world on a magical journey of awe – even if it is only for a couple of minutes. 

“In a world of consumerisation and the overstuffed consumer, it is refreshing to see your take on travel retail product development and merchandising creativity which at times is truly stunning and jaw-dropping.  Please continue doing so – it makes me want to travel every day!”

And me Julie-Ann. And me…

Thank you, and may the next stage of your life’s journey be successful, happy and fulfilling. No-one understood the desperately pulsating yet defiant heartbeat of Christchurch better than you, as you and your colleagues strove magnificently to keep the human lifeline that was the airport open at a time of fear, catastrophe and heartbreak and as (I know) your own home lay precariously, acutely vulnerable to the terrifying power of a force that would not relent for months. May you and the beautiful ‘Garden City’ of the greatest country on earth flourish forever.

Back to business. I think Julie-Ann is right in lauding the quality of some of the industry developments we are seeing increasingly around the travel retail planet. Yes, I know there is still much mediocrity but there is also so much that excites and even occasionally inspires.

I saw examples of both last week. Lotte Duty Free’s success in winning the Guam contract has been mired in controversy with DFS continuing to challenge the whole tender process, one of the bitterest rows in industry history. But last Wednesday’s Grand Opening was not the occasion to dwell on that. Building on a great retail vision and design by Singapore-based Lightfoot Space (take a bow Alex Cook and your colleagues for an outstanding job), and the passion, perserverance and ability of a hard-working local team, Lotte Duty Free has delivered surely one of the best retail offers in any small airport in the world.

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It’s not flawless but there’s plenty to cheer. The immediate visual impact as passengers clear security is stunning – the replica Carabao, the Guam Cultural Center and the giant aquarium combining to great effect and surely leaving no passenger in any doubt as to the provenance of the offer (or of where they are flying out of).

This truly is Sense of Place in ambition and (partly) in execution. I have championed that concept relentlessly for well over a decade and I remain frustrated by how frequently retailers, food & beverage operators and airports talk about it but fail to grasp the really important intellectual and cultural values that underpin it. Guam is a good and, I think, brave (especially in an airport with just 1.3 million departing passengers) attempt at, in the words of American author Ken Kesey, ‘Sometimes a great notion’. Now let’s see a better range of quality local products, more art and culture, some exhibitions, maybe even some live performances. Make this mid-Pacific paradise come alive even more.

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Beauty has been treated tastefully and with seriously strong brand impact from big international names and also an array of Guam debutantes, notably of course from Korea’s burgeoning skincare sector. Liquor, tobacco, luxury, watches and fashion accessories are all competently (and sometimes better than that) presented and the confectionery and food line-up is a big step up from that traditionally offered here. The sunglasses section is  top class. I also liked the feeling of ebullience and pride among the staff, resplendent in their colourful new uniforms (below) which nicely echo the vibrancy of the offer.

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As I wrote in my original report, there’s a nice softness of tone to the overall environment, characterised by gentle design curves and locally inspired finishings (the banana leaf pattern is particularly alluring). The way retail has been opened up to merge seamlessly with the food & beverage offer is a deft and potentially lucrative touch and Lotte’s heavy investment has even manifested itself in a makeover of the airport’s long-maligned toilet facilities.

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[No longer a sinking feeling: Lotte has even refurbished the airport's long-criticised washrooms]

On that point, in 27 years of travel retail journalism I must say that last week was the first time I have been given a tour of an airport’s washrooms. Fearing a quirky pop-up store, I was relieved to witness instead a simple but essential upgrading of facilities which, like sub-standard retail and food & beverage, can have a disproportionate impact on an airport’s reputation.

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[MM with Lotte Duty Free CEO and members of Lotte's Guam team]

Later that evening before my flight I had a few casual drinks in a downtown Guam bar with some of Lotte’s local team. They were, as the saying goes, ‘letting their hair down’ (I let mine down years ago but never got it back) after one of the biggest, most-pressured occasions in the retailer’s history (despite boasting a business worth less than US$40 million, the airport carries huge significance in terms of Lotte’s international aspirations).

It’s at times like this that one really discovers what retail teams put into their jobs. It’s nice to see the high fives, the letting go of tension, the genuine interest in what an outsider thinks of their efforts. Great people doing a great job.

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Having slept from the moment I crawled into my Korean Air seat at 01.40 all the way to Incheon, I spent the next two working days meeting some of the  key figures in (and around) South Korean travel retail, our industry’s biggest market, and catching up with long-time industry friends. First up was KDB Daewoo Securities Equity Analyst (Textile & Apparel, Hotel & Leisure) Regina Hahm (above).

Regina’s insight into travel retail is as detailed and precise as anything I have ever experienced in the investment community. Read her comments on The Shilla Duty Free’s quarterly results published earlier this week and you’ll see what I mean. We had a wonderful dinner,  which I left knowing a whole lot more about the business than I had when we began. Analysts such as Regina read the industry in a slightly different (though often converging) way to a commentator and journalist such as me and the opportunity to compare notes was a rich one indeed.

The next day I had surely one of the great lunches of my lifetime with David Yu (centre below), CEO at Entas Duty Free, together with one of his managers James Kang (right), course after course after course of exquistely presented, deliciously flavoured representations of one of the world’s great cuisines.

Remember the name Entas Duty Free. It is going to make headlines. I, undoubtedly, will write some of them. The company plans to become Korea’s third-biggest player (after Lotte and Shilla) and will take a giant step towards securing that ambition when it opens a major downtown duty free store in the city of Incheon later this year, having already unveiled a seaport store there. Entas will chase a presence at Incheon International Airport and it would be a brave person who bets against them.

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The retailer is a subsidiary of The Entas Group, a leading Korean restaurant operator which owns and operates 80 Korean, Japanese and Chinese restaurants, including Kyungbokkung, Sapporo and Kokuryo. The group’s Song-do Hanok Village development – another arm of its business – was completed recently, introducing Korean culture and cuisine to foreigners visiting Incheon. I like those ideals very much. I dined at one of their biggest and best Seoul multi-restaurant facilities and as the pictures reveal, it was both a magnificent culinary experience and a visual feast of the senses. Watch this space, watch the Incheon space, watch the Entas name.

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Later that day I also spent quality time with Incheon International Airport Corporation’s Director Concession Team 1 Sang J Ahn and his colleague Young-Shin Kim, Senior Manager Concession Team 1. They’re both really nice people, passionate about their role in sustaining Incheon’s status as one of the world’s greatest (and many people say the greatest) airports.

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Young-Shin is working day and night on the forthcoming major food & beverage tender but most industry attention is, of course, on the Incheon duty free bid – a mega-contest if ever there was one. As Mr Ahn explained, the process cannot be kick started until a new CEO is appointed at the airport. Hopefully, very hopefully, that moment will be soon.

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I also squeezed in a dinner (after a two-hour traffic jam and an encounter with a seriously disorientated taxi driver who may, just may have been the Korean cousin of Robert de Niro) with MCM’s delightful Jeanie Jang (above), and, the next morning, a breakfast with long time Imperial Tobacco duty free executive John Kammerman (pictured below and, by the way, if you’re looking for a great duty free executive in Asia Pacific you won’t get much better).

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Then it was a dash once more to Incheon and the long ride home to Heathrow. Believe it or not, Young-Shin Kim came to the airport to see me off at my (very distant) gate, underlining the warmth, generosity and grace of the Incheon team (and in my view the Korean people). My full views will be the subject of a further Blog but I was hugely impressed by the seemingly airport-wide embracing of a totally service-led culture.

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I have raved before about the wonderful Korea Traditional Cultural Experience Center (above), a combination of shopping, culture, entertainment and education without equal, in my view, in the whole airport world. As for the airport’s live cultural shows (below), they are quite simply, showstoppers. Move over walk-through duty free, move in walk-through culture – I know which I prefer.

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[The Louis Vuitton store at Incheon International Airport has become a tourist attraction in its own right]

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[Tall stories: Hey, that giraffe just ate my hair...]

The core duty free shops, meanwhile, were doing a roaring trade. After a soft 2013, things are looking much better this year (a major factor in Shilla’s excellent quarterly results) and all the core category stores were simply teeming with customers as I left on Saturday.

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I flew home with the always excellent Korean Air (I want to send every single British Airways crew member, but especially the grumpy ones that seem to always be assigned to me, on the Korean Air service course), itself a retailer of great repute (some US$200 million in sales last year). I was going to write this Blog onboard. Instead, I must confess, I slept the sleep of the angels, the blue-eyed angels as a friend of mine terms them, all the long way home.

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[I'm loving that front cover...]

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[The shape of things to come: In a few weeks Lotte Duty Free will open its biggest-ever duty free space at the stunning new Lotte World Tower]

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“Christmas time! That man must be a misanthrope indeed, in whose breast something like a jovial feeling is not roused – in whose mind some pleasant associations are not awakened – by the recurrence of Christmas.” Charles Dickens

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Reader, I am that Mann. Christmas just doesn’t do it for me. I basically don’t have the time; especially now I’m a working parent with a younger daughter who was born on Boxing Day (I KNOW, like December’s not busy/expensive enough). I start dreading the, er, advent of the festive season as soon as the first Christmas cards appear (increasingly, around mid-September, it seems). Preparing for a modern-day family Christmas is a full-time job – and I already have one of those – so the only way I can contemplate the annual tour of duty, which includes at least seven days’ hard labour chained to the stove (we always have house guests too), is by hitting the Malbec. Hard.

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All I want for Christmas…is under that tree

I give you the opening of Allison Pearson’s novel I Don’t Know How She Does It. Specifically the part where the central character Kate Reddy, fresh off the plane from a business trip, is up at 2am ‘distressing’ shop-bought mince pies so they look more home-made. Seriously, I’ve been doing that for years. What else is Waitrose for? To escape the drudgery of Christmas you have to either be born a man or pay another woman to do it all for you. In 2006 I went into labour on Christmas Day and not even THAT got me out of cooking the dinner. Give me Easter any day. There’s more chocolate and I’m usually on holiday.

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So when the invitation from Jo Malone arrived in my inbox – on 7 July, no less – to attend the brand’s Christmas preview today, I did give an involuntary shudder. Once a year is surely more than enough.

And yet. From the moment I crossed the threshold of Jo Malone London’s Townhouse, decorated with an exquisite wreath, something in me shifted. Because this wasn’t Christmas the way mere mortals do it. This was Christmas perfection. Not having relatives there doubtless helped.

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Crackers for Christmas – and some scrumptious Scented Baubles

At the bottom of the staircase was a stunning white and crimson Christmas tree, surrounded by Jo Malone gift boxes big enough to sit on, flanked by a dreamboat dressed in red velvet. At the top of a staircase was a divine-smelling snow-dusted room crammed with goodies: the entire Jo Malone festive offer, laid out on a table to lust over. Beautiful beribboned boxes, trimmed with scarlet, showcased a tantalising array of fragrances, bath products and candles – and an exquisite Cherry & Clove Scented Bauble.

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There is no such thing as too much glitter

On one side of the room was a wreath-making station (I actually tried this one year, in a freezing cold marquee in the middle of a field. Three hours of my life I’ll never get back and my efforts in no way resembled these works of art). On the other side was a desk displaying the bespoke glitter stencils consumers can have their gift boxes decorated with. I love glitter. I love red. I was weakening by the minute.

The next room featured a breath-taking Christmas table, dressed in the same striking white and crimson livery, complete with frosted cherries, a stunning centrepiece and a subtle sprinkling of snow. Mentally I have already re-decorated my dining room to accommodate this colour scheme and *may* have ordered some ivory candelabra this evening.

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Dinner is served, Jo Malone style

But the pièce de résistance was a mini ice-rink next door, set in the middle of a winter wonderland, inhabited by Luke, the hunky male model who appears in the Jo Malone Christmas ad campaign. Talk about a Damascene conversion. NOW I understand the attraction of Christmas, I thought, in a daze. OF COURSE it’s the most wonderful time of the year. On the event invitation, Jo Malone London promised “A World of Icy Enchantment”. It certainly managed to cast a spell on me.

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Gifts galore from Jo Malone’s #FrostedFantasy world of icy enchantment

Never slow to get my skates on, I was soon being escorted around the rink, holding Luke’s hand very firmly a) in case I fell over and b) just because I could. Jo Malone chose wisely when it came up with the #FrostedFantasy hashtag to promote the event, because frankly I was living the dream and beyond.

This is the type of Christmas I crave. Chic, classy and absolutely effortless – predominantly because someone else has done all the work. If my house ever looks like this on 25 December then I suspect, like Wizzard, I too will Wish It Could be Christmas Every Day.

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The lovely Luke, star of the Christmas ad campaign

It won’t of course, and on reflection perhaps that’s no bad thing. Nothing in the Jo Malone Townhouse – aside from the ice rink perhaps – would appeal to my family at this age and stage. It’ll be wonky Christingles, chocolate oranges, too much TV, board games and panto all the way Chez Mann, and I’m starting to think resistance is futile.

Come December, when I am simultaneously attempting to lay the festive table, dispose of Rudolph’s carrot, consume Santa’s mince piece, dust ‘snowprints’ on the floor, peel potatoes, stuff stockings, find fridge space for a birthday cake and check my kids are still asleep – all while keeping on the right side of the sherry – I shall take a moment, exhale deeply, and escape to the soothing memory of Jo Malone’s perfect Christmas tableau.

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Cool customer: The Moodie Report’s Rebecca Mann gets her skates on

Then, I hope, in the true spirit of the season, I will smile (possibly through gritted teeth) at July’s Frosted Fantasy, and give thanks for my own Flawed Reality. Has Jo Malone actually helped me bid goodbye to my inner Grinch? Maybe. If I can enjoy a make-believe Christmas in July (and against all expectations I really did) then perhaps I can enjoy a real one in December. US author Lenora Mattingly Weber says it best: “Christmas is for children. But it is for grown-ups too. Even if it is a headache, a chore, and nightmare, it is a period of necessary defrosting of chill and hide-bound hearts.”

Here’s to a permanent thaw. Happy Christmas to all!

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guam viewHafa Adai from Guam. Now this is what I call a room with a view.

I’m staying at the newly opened Lotte Hotel Guam overlooking the bluest, most transparent sea you ever saw. This is the Pacific at its purest. A perfect, pristine scene.

It’s a busy work day for me on our weekly e-Zine so I’m taking room service (a sensationally good Seafood Ramen with Shrimp and Clam, washed down with a cold Asahi Dry) before the real purpose of my visit kicks in.

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As mentioned in my last Blog, I’m here as the only representative of the travel retail media to attend the Grand Opening of Lotte Duty Free’s new duty free, specialist and luxury retail offer at AB Won Pat International Airport. This follows a US$17 million makeover since the Korean travel retail contentiously won the contract ahead of long-time incumbent DFS Group.

Today’s a rest day (or in my case a working day spent, alas, viewing that Pacific rather than being in it) before an informal dinner tonight and all the celebrations tomorrow. I’m told by non-Lotte sources today that the stores are looking very good indeed and offer quite a point of difference to many smaller airports’ retail offers. I’ll know soon enough.

Guam lotte Lotte_Duty_Free_Store_600[This picture is from a few weeks back, I'll update tomorrow]

DFS, of course, still enjoys a very strong presence here in Guam, with its luxurious Tumon Bay T Galleria. And as the photos below show, it’s not missing a single trick in publicising that presence from the moment the tourist enters the country (all pictures taken just after landing at AB Won Pat International Group). On the rare occasions in its history when it has lost an airport contract in a market where it also enjoys a downtown presence, DFS has historically fought very hard to offset any impact with an aggressive campaign to promote its off-airport store and that’s certainly the case here.

Guam welcome to 1

Guam welcome to 2Guam dfs signsIt will be interesting to see whether Lotte, in time, tries to compete downtown also. That’s certainly one of the questions I’ll be asking Lotte Duty Free CEO Hong-Kyun (HK) Lee (below), who arrives in Guam today.

Mr_HK_Lee_300

Mr Lee is one of South Korea’s most experienced travel retail executives, having worked for the company since 1982. He knows very well the importance of this opening to Lotte’s international ambitions. It may be a comparitively small airport currently generating sales of under US$40 million but it’s also a showcase for retailing to Japanese, Korean and Chinese passengers and Lee and Lotte want to portray a high-class proposition here.

Watch this space, as indeed I will watching Lotte Duty Free’s – with, if you’ll forgive me, the odd glimpse at the Pacific waves below.

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ph66oto

I’m posting this Blog from Incheon International Airport just before I jump on my Korean Air flight to Guam.

South Korea is known as the Land of the Morning Calm, but there’s probably not too much calmness here among the Lotte Duty Free team as they prepare for one of their most significant store openings of recent days on Wednesday.

I’m heading to Guam (for the second time in less than a year) to report on that opening, which embraces a new duty free, specialist and luxury retail offer at AB Won Pat International Airport. The Korean travel retailer has spent some US$17 million transforming the airport’s commercial facilities and I’ll be intrigued to see how it’s taken shape.

First though there was a brief opportunity to take a quick look around Incheon, one of my (and the world’s) favourite airports. The Korea Traditional Cultural Experience Center here really is one of the great attractions in the airport world, right up there among my top ten outlets. It’s lovely to hear live performances like the one that was taking place today, and to watch adult and child passengers alike all involved in traditional Korean art and craft activities within the Center.

incheon perf

Incheon CCLotte’s liquor & tobacco, fashion and perfume & cosmetics stores were all doing roaring business and if they can just generate some of that in Guam they will be delighted.

incheo lotte liquor

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[Note how packed the store is behind me]

We’ll be the only travel retail media present in Guam and you can look forward to an extensive report, including pictures, podcasts and video, very soon.

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p111hotoBelow you can see a couple of the boutiques, opened in recent weeks. But there’s much more, including the retailer’s promised focus on championing local culture and crafts.

With all the travel I’ve been doing lately, I keep falling into using the wrong language (I kept addressing the Spanish hotel staff in Italian last week) but so far my limited Korean is bearing up nicely and there’s just one key term I need for Guam – the lovely Chamora phrase ‘hafa adai’ (meaning hello or welcome). I’ll be saying hafa adai to you all soon from somewhere way, way out in the mid-Pacific as I return to the beautiful Mariana Islands.

Lotte_Duty_Free_Guam_Chloei_Jul14

Lotte_Duty_Free_Guam_Loewe_Jul14

 

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puig port

I told you in my last Blog that I’d be all at sea today. I meant it literally. I was due to join Puig senior management and some of the company’s key retailers onboard one of several racing yachts commissioned by the company to coincide with  the Vela Classica, a sailing boat race organised by Puig.

puig boatsNow of course we Kiwis are outstanding yachtsman (last time I checked the Americas Cup score we were leading the Americans by 8-1 – first one to 9 wins – anyone know the final result?) so I am sure my presence would have scared the living hell out of any rival boats.

Alas though, as is my wont, work once again got in the way, and I’ve spent the day instead back in my hotel room, belting out a couple of features on Hamad International Airport against the looming, guillotine-like threat of the weekly e-Zine deadline. Was I MAD when I launched the e-Zine with a weekly frequency?

mm by water

So the closest I’ve got to the sea is a walk along the marina, the magnificent Mediterranean view from the window of my room at the astoundingly good W hotel and the Puig Vela Classica cap I’m wearing to remind me of what I’m missing.

Puig W

However, I’m not complaining, with my luck (and sailing abilities) I would have probably fallen overboard, taking Puig’s travel retail boss Patrick Bouchard and Gebr Heinemann co-owner Claus Heinemann with me, thus robbing the industry of two of its finest sons. There was also the option of sitting on a catamaran and drinking Champagne while the others raced. Much more tempting though that was, I resisted it in the great cause that is The Moodie Report.

room with a view

I’m here as the sole travel retail media representative at the 100th anniversary celebrations of Barcelona-based fashion-to-fragrances house Puig. Today I had the very great pleasure of interviewing Chairman & CEO Mark Puig (below), who represents the third generation of the Puig family and who has led the company to great success since taking on his two roles in 2004 and 2007 respectively.

Puig marc and mm

Our chat took place in certainly the most beautiful surrounds in which I have ever conducted an interview – the Real Club Nautico, looking out over Barcelona Harbour.

Marc, a charming and understated man, talked candidly with me for nearly an hour on what it takes to make – and sustain – a family company in a world (especially his sectors) dominated by multi-nationals. That’s an endlessly fascinating subject I think – you can read his answers in what I promise is a compelling and distinctly non-corporate interview in coming weeks. The binds of family are tighter at Puig than any of the knots on today’s yachts, something I saw first hand when I met Marc’s father, the legendary ‘Don’ Mariano Puig (below with Marc and I). “Congratulations on your 100th anniversary,” I said. Quick as a flash he replied, “Me? No, I’m not that old!”

Puig mm with mard and don mariano

Puig claus marc and don m

[From left: Claus Heinemann, 'Don' Mariano Puig, Marc Puig]

Last night I was priviliged to attend a wonderful dinner at the local Barceloneta restaurant with Patrick; other members of the Puig team; Claus Heinemann and Kay Spanger of Gebr Heinemann; plus Claus’s and Kay’s delightful wives Brúnnild Ute, and their lovely children Clara Heinemann and Tatjana and Carolina Spanger.

puig rest 2

Puig dinner 2

puig dinner

A stream of tapas flowed like Barcelona’s twin rivers Llobregat and Besos, while a zesty 2013 bl8 verdejo/Sauvignon Blanc blend from Birlocho in Rueda was as deeply chilled and refreshing as the company.

Tonight’s the Gala Dinner. How do you celebrate such a landmark anniversary?  In some style, I suspect is the answer.

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madrid mural

I’m writing from the (very) interim Moodie Report Bureau in Madrid at the delightful Hotel Palacio del Retiro (don’t you just love the mural outside my window? I promise you it’s not an overly inquisitive local.). My Spanish is lousy but the hotel name kind of sounds like (but isn’t) ‘the palatial hotel where I shall retire’, and I just might.

Madrid is my kind of city, especially at this time of year, full of lovely tapas bars, beautiful old buildings and a timeless elegance that secures its position as one of the world’s great capitals.

madrid outsid

I’m here for less than 24 hours to witness the Grand Opening of Aelia Retail España’s new luxury offer at Adolfo Suárez Madrid Barajas Airport Terminal 1 (below). This 1,050sq m, 21-brand top-of-the-range jewellery, watches, accessories and prêt-à-porter proposition is a very big deal indeed for LS travel retail and Aelia and the opening promises to be a grand occasion.

madrid fashion_Gallery

Last night I dined, courtesy of  Lagardère Services Communications Manager Alexander Twose (below) at one of those brilliant restaurants that so characterise the culinary scene here. It was called Vinoteca Garcia and it comes with my highest recommendation when you’re next in Madrid. Don’t expect palatial finery of fixtures or fawning formality from the waiting staff. Do expect excellent meat and fish dishes that practically leap off the plate in their vibrancy and succulence and friendly, natural service. They also have a great Head Sommellier, who I discussed wines with at length last night.

He is so good that a Spanish diner from the next table came over to me when he saw me perusing the wine list and said with a smile, “Just leave it to him – he knows everything about wine.”

In the end, I compromised. I am a big fan of a till-recently unheralded Spanish grape variety called Godello from northwest Spain, notably Galicia. At its best Godello produces outstandingly fresh, flowery yet bone dry white wines, notably in Valdeorrsas. Godellos was almost extinct in the 1970s and early 1980s but it’s back with a bang (no, make that a gentle caress) now.

madrid godello

The Head Sommellier was delighted at my choice of grape (there were five Godellos on offer) and instantly recommended the choice of Louro. Scour the web and you’ll find an excellent article by Luis Gutiérrez called ‘The Greatness of Godello’. Try this wine and you’ll know why.

Here are my tasting notes: A breathtakingly pure potpourri of minerality and an understated touch of grapefruit. Dry as a Bible-belt town in the deep south of the USA yet beautifully balanced by the subtlest  Spanish kiss you ever received, just a feather-like touch upon your lips, but of vanilla oak not of lipstick. Swoon, close your eyes, swill the wine on your tongue and be transported to the clean, green northwest of Spain.

After the opening today, I’m Barcelona-bound for another celebration, this time of beauty-to-fashion house Puig’s 100th anniversary. I’ll be bringing you my own version of a travel retail exclusive, part of it written while I am (not for the first time in my life) all at sea.

LIVE Images from The Fashion Gallery Opening:

One Response to “Waiting for Godello and Delicioso from Galicia”

  1. Nicolas says:

    Dear Martin,

    For a wine fan like you, when in Barcelona you should try to head to Monvinic, C Diputacio 249 (very central, just a few minutes away from Pza Catalunya).

    Cheers,

    Nicolas

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paul and shark with catherine

This Blog comes to you after a brilliant couple of days in Varese, near Milan. I was there to get the know the compelling family story (and values) of one of Italy’s most distinguished luxury fashion names, Paul & Shark.

The invitation came from Catherine Bonelli (above), the house’s new Global Travel Retail Director. There aren’t many more popular executives in our business than Catherine but, critically, she is also held in deep respect by her peers and by retailers.

Based in Paris, Catherine previously served as International Travel Retail Director at Lacoste, a role that followed a decade at The Coca Cola Company.

She has joined a company with a fiercely proud family ethic and an impressive obsession with quality. I saw those values first-hand over an engaging dinner with Andrea Dini (below), who runs parent company Dama as well as the house of Paul & Shark Yachting.

Paul & Shark Andrea and Catherine

Andrea’s an unassuming, modest and engaging man, but one impassioned by a refusal to compromise on manufacturing standards.

For him, ‘Made in Italy’ means more than simply a production location. It means ‘Made of the finest quality in Italy’ and he flatly refuses to consider moving production to cheaper labour markets. When he joined the company 25 years ago it exported only to Germany. Today Paul & Shark is in over 70 countries, including a strong (but still underdeveloped) travel retail presence.  Pertinently for the travel retail channel, the company has  forged a particularly strong reputation in China (where it is booming via a multi-tier store network, including second and third tier cities), Russia and India.

Paul and Shark  old pic

What is the key to surviving and flourishing as a family company in a world dominated by multi-national giants? Andrea thought about his answer for some time, then replied: “The key is first of all a strong brand, then a personal relationship with the customers – we are not the kind of partner who simply says ‘buy, buy, buy’.”

Catherine, already deeply immersed in the company culture, added: “It’s about passion, agility, flexibility, dedication, customer-orientation – all backed by a long-term vision.”

Paul & Shark Yachting – the famous emblem with which the brand was born – is synonymous with the weatherproof nature of its garments, something that carries through to this day. Such a quality also serves as an analogy for a company that has weathered industry consolidation, various economic crises and much else besides to stand tall as a leader of the Italian fashion business.

paul and shark 2 dummy

Paul and shark 2 showroom

Paul and Sark with Paulo and Catherine

During my stay I visited the company’s factory , showrooms and warehouse. Paul & Shark is obessed by the quality of fabric it uses (a special Egyptian cotton; mainly Australia wool). To watch the magnificent, multi-coloured intricacy and brilliance of of certain machinery, was a journey into a new, intricate and wonderful world. Our tutor was Paulo Zanetta (above with Catherine and me enjoying lunch at company headquarters), who taught me more about garment manufacture and care than I would have otherwise learned in a lifetime.

Paul and Shark yarns better Paul and Shark yarns

paul and shark 2 colours

Paul and shark 2 indian

[Paul & Shark personalises shirts for retail clients and individual consumers]

Later, with Catherine, I visited the Paul & Shark flagship store on Via Montenapoleone (below), directly adjacent to names such as Cartier, Dior and Hermès universe. I watched amazed as one young Taiwanese woman (already clad head to toe in the brand) bought no fewer than 18 items in probably just as many minutes. The transaction, running into several thousand Euros, underlined again the appeal of the brand to key Asian nationalities.

Paul and Shark flagship

You can read my full report in a forthcoming issue of The Moodie Report Print Edition. One senses already that the passion and knowledge of Catherine Bonelli has found the perfect home. Watch this space in travel retail – there are surprises aplenty coming.

Paul and Shark 2 office

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