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carabou

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.

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.).

airport ad

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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guam paradise

guam cultural centre

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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fush

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.

guam beuaty

uniforms

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.

washrooms rsz

[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.

guam team

[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.

blog regina

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.

new david yu

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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entas food

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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.

korean team

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.

jeanie

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.

cutlure centre

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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cultureal

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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.

shilla

lotte

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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“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.

wreath
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.

asahi

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.

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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.

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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

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[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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q flight

This Blog begins about 50 minutes out of Doha just off the coast of Kuwait. Beneath me the perfect blue waters of the Persian Gulf sparkle like immaculately polished gemstones.

Azure

I’m onboard a Qatar Airways flight way home to London after a whistle-stop visit to the Qatari capital and, more pertinently, the new Hamad International Airport.

Over the past 12 years I’ve spent roughly half of my time out of the UK. I’ve lost count of the number of cities I’ve visited. And while I’ve become a true international citizen, much of that citizenship has been earned onboard airplanes and in airports, hotels and offices. My normal routine runs something like this – depart Heathrow, arrive at overseas airport; take transport to local hotel; visit airport retailer downtown or on-airport; depart overseas airport for Heathrow.

I have certainly stayed true to type over the past two days. On Monday evening I flew from Heathrow to Doha, arriving at Hamad International on Tuesday morning before heading a couple of hours later to meetings with Qatar Duty Free Vice President Keith Hunter and then Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker.

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mm and ceo 1

Subsequently I took an all too brief airport tour, dashed back to the outstanding Oryx Rotana Hotel, had dinner there with the Qatar Duty Free team, worked till the wee, small hours online and then did a final farewell tour of the airport before flying home courtesy of the simply brilliant, brilliantly simple, consumer experience-obsessed Qatar Airways. Door-to-door in 48 hours, with a 20-hour break before I head to Malpensa Airport in Milan, Italy, on Thursday.

But oh what I have learned over those 48 hours. Projects, passion and personalities are my current favourite ‘three Ps’ of travel retail. There is nothing I enjoy more in this business than sharing time with a commercial team that has created a retail and/or food & beverage offer. Always, to a man and a woman, from senior executive to shop floor staff, they give of their time generously and nowhere was that the case more than in Doha.

As I look out my airplane window towards Diwaniya, Iraq to my left, I wonder if there can be any more exciting project in travel retail than creating the commercial offer at a new airport. That is exactly what has happened here in Doha as Keith Hunter (with me below) and his team conceived and crafted what they simply KNEW had to be an outstanding, and if humanly possible world-leading, retail and food & beverage proposition.

keith and me

With a boss as driven as Akbar Al Baker anything short of that was unacceptable anyway but it wasn’t just about pressure from above. Keith, inspired I think by his huge respect for Al Baker, has the same zero tolerance attitude to mediocrity; the same obsession with excellence and detail; the same ability to lead from the front.

When leaders care, teams care; when leaders inspire, their lieutenants inspire. You will have heard perhaps about Al Baker’s tough management style; you will hear the cheap (mostly British) critics harp on with their finely tuned sense of schadenfreude delight in the delayed opening of Hamad International (or for that matter the – temporary – economic troubles of Dubai a few years back); you will even be regaled with industry tales of how leading international concessionaires could do it better.

My advice? Turn down the sound. Instead come visit Doha and Qatar Duty Free (or Dubai Duty Free). Understand the complexity of what they have created here. The vision. The obstacles. The buy-in. The brilliance. The passion. The excellence. The execution. The sense of commitment to country, to progress, to something altogether bigger. And then come back to the thought that London might finally get an additional runway sometime post-2020 (if it’s lucky).

So you’ll forgive me an (aging) small town boy’s delight at my Doha discoveries. I think what has happened here at Hamad International should be a case study for every student of our industry. More particularly, I would urge every senior airport executive around the world to come visit. For this is what happens when all airport stakeholders are aligned in their interests.

The great, great challenge of the ‘Trinity’ (airports, concessionaires, brands) ideal is to get industry stakeholders on the same page (if not always in agreement). The doom merchants and diehards of the industry dismiss that concept as a naive utopia and of course they’re easily and demonstrably right – while being emphatically wrong.

How so? On the one hand they’re right because the industry’s various stakeholders spend so much time obsessively committed to MAG, margin and what I term ‘misery debate’. But wrong – wrong, wrong, wrong – in that great ideas are never built by naysayers, narrow-minded sceptics and neanderthals.

Give me an Al Baker or a Keith Hunter every day of the week. You watch – see who our industry’s leaders are over the next decade. Watch how Qatar Duty Free flourishes not just in Doha but around the world and you will see who creates the paths to progress. Here you have a different type of Trinity – airport, retailer/F&B operator and (critically) airlines under common ownership

So what of Hamad International? How good is its commercial proposition? Was Al Baker really right in resisting the concerted courtship of the biggest and best names in travel retail, all arguing that they could do a better job than his in-house operation?

So here we go. Hamad International Airport. Qatar Duty Free. A consumer verdict.

First up, best in class – Marmalade Market (whoever thought up the name deserves a bonus). I have been harping on for years that our industry can do the food & gourmet category better. This, and I think Heinemann’s A Little Something at Sydney Airport, are by some distance the best expressions of that vision to date.

marmalade

I love Marmalade Market. I know it will do well. It is simply too good to fail. Why? Because it’s simply a treasure trove of gourmet goodies that begs to be discovered. Every shelf and fixture offers a surprise, from multi-flavoured Persian candy floss to chili-infused dark chocolate; from cinnamon-infused honey to pomegranate dressing; from an array of loose biscuits to micro-brewery beers. Don’t expect to recognise most of the brand names – as I said this is all about a voyage of discovery.

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Confectionery is so often the ‘also ran’ category of new stores. Here, to borrow from Tour de France parlance, it’s right at the front of the peloton. Pick ‘n’ mix Lindt chocolates are doing storming business; the Fauchon area is stunning; and the Chocology boutique, offering fresh chocolates, exudes class like a soft-centre chocolate oozes its liquid filling (it features a particularly sumptuos Godiva offer with some pieces especially made for Qatar Duty Free). And how about the chocolate-dipped strawberries, presented in a cone-like paper wrapper? Foodie nirvana.

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fauchon

lindt

The difficult fashion category is very well and sometimes edgily executed via the Esquire (menswear) and Junction outlets and the ten-store luxury zone (Chopard, Giorgio Armani and Salvatore Ferragamo are yet to open) has a lovely soft curve to it that avoids the ‘boxed set’ look of so many airport luxury areas.

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Other stand-outs for me (I’ll bring you more photos over the weekend) included Cedar Room, a small but perfectly formed circular unit offering super-premium spirits and cigars; a brilliant Tag Heuer boutique; and a Harrods signature store that is generating incredible sales. High-end watches, too, are doing roaring business – Rolex via a stand-alone boutique and others in the GMT generic watches and jewellery store.

harrods

Pulse is an attractive and well-ranged consumer technology outlet and (again nicely named) The Bumble Tree an impressively sized and ranged toy shop. The latter category is hopelessly under-represented in travel retail and it’s good to see Qatar Duty Free giving it such a major focus.

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[Qatar Duty Free's 'Kev the Bee'. Kevin Farrow, outside The Bumble Tree]

the bumble tree

And the core categories? Beauty is the big winner here, with several blockbuster brands such as La Mer, MAC and Bobbi Brown making their Doha debut, and the whole area beautifully open, accessible and classy. There’s a lovely high-end fragrances room (it just needs some tweaking in the lighting) though I’m not so sure about the main fragrances area, especially a rather cluttered back wall. A soon to be added masstige store called Blush underlines the retailer’s determination to reach out to all passenger profiles, not just the luxury orientated.

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high end frags

The well-ranged liquor zone was moved just weeks before opening so it’s too early to judge as some changes are still being made, especially to the wines and super-premium spirits offer. Tobacco, both cigars (featuring a fine walk-in humidor) and cigarettes, is well done.

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There is more, much more to come – over 20 more outlets in the existing South Node and a whole new offer to follow when the North Node comes on stream in a few months.

If that all sounds like a big job, Keith Hunter and his team are also responsible for food & beverage, part but not all of it working with SSP. I dined at Yumcha, an Asian fast food outlet in the Eat Street Food Court, which boasts seven different offers ranging from coffee to Arabic food. Qatar Duty Free has developed its own coffee concept called Jamocha Café and there’s a highly impressive Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bar that ranks as the restaurateur’s biggest in the airport world (and is already proving a smash hit). SSP will introduce its outstanding Le Grand Comptoir wine bar concept (a regular front-runner at the annual FAB awards) while, excitingly, a celebrity chef-led Italian restaurant will also open in coming months.

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And what of the airport itself? Apart from it being darker than I would have expected (something that’s being worked on), it is a vast, user-friendly and often incomparable airport in terms of facilities. Swimming pool? Check. Squash courts? Check. Gym? Check. Incredible business class and first class lounges? Check.

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[Sans racquet, The Moodie Report Chairman tries out the new squash courts]

Importantly, Hamad International features several major public art installations with more to come. Art is a central tenet of the Qatar Museum Authority’s aim to push the boundaries of the traditional museum model and to offer cultural experiences in public spaces. Qatari artist Faraj Duham has been commissioned to create large murals while artist Ali Hassan is producing an iconic desert horse sculpture. Other local artists include Mohammed Aljaida, Mubarak Al Malik, Amal Alatham, and Yousif Ahmed. Works will be revealed progressively over the next year and also feature international artists, including Keith Haring, Damien Hirst and several others.

art more

But it’s the first of the international installations, entitled Lamp Bear by the Swiss artist Urs Fischer, which will surely remain the talking point for years to come. Positioned right in the heart of the public concourse in the South Node, this giant bronze teddy bear with a shining light over its head (symbolising the enlightenment of the young) is already a complete show stopper. During my stay I saw scores of passengers taking photos. Its sheer sense of fun is a brilliant and wholly unexpected counterpoint to the stress of travel. Dutch artist Tom Claassen has crafted a series of sculptures of the Oryx, an antelope native to the Arabian Peninsula, and there’s much more excitement and culture planned.

Teddy

a teddy big

For Keith Hunter, the commercial offer (his team also handles airport advertising) is a triumph. One can only begin to imagine the blood, sweat and maybe even tears that went into this project. Keith now heads a team of over 1,200 – a huge boost rise over last year and set to soar even further as the North Node plus Concourses D and E are added.

Driving back to the hotel with him after Tuesday’s tour, it was impossible not to be impressed with the sheer passion he has for the project. “I’m not going to sell it short,” he says. “I think it is amazing, great. But the really exciting thing is that there’s so much room to take it forward. I am really proud of what my incredible management team have achieved – I don’t believe there is a problem we can’t get over – and there’s much more to come.”

The final word goes to the irrepressible Akbar Al Baker. “We used to deliver a very high-quality product inflight but we didn’t match it on the ground when people came here,” he told me. “Passengers have very high expectations, especially when there are other [highly competitive] facilities in the region.

“[As an airport] we were far behind and now we are foremost in what we provide to our passengers. The facilities that we have in this building are unprecedented in any other airport.”

It would be hard to argue otherwise.

Azure Q food

FOOTNOTE: A final word for the service onboard Qatar Airways. Those in the know believe the carrier’s wine offer is one of, perhaps the, best in the world. As part of a big initiative in the wine category we’ll be announcing next week, here are my views on the whites alone (the reds will have to wait for my next flight).

Mosburgerin Reserve 1er Cru 2011 Grüner Veltiner: A beautifully constructed Austrian wine. More full-bodied and structured than many Grüner Veltiners; firm, clean and with surprising complexity. A lovely wine from first nosing to a finish as long and thrilling as a Viennese waltz.

Petite Clos: Is this wine really from New Zealand? The French name and complexity of palate suggests not but indeed it is from Marlborough, the spiritual and viticultural Sauvignon heartland of Aotearoa – the land of the Long White Cloud, the flightless Kiwi bird, and of course those mighty All Blacks. Lovey aromatic lime and asparagus nose; beautifully intense, concentrated flavours; long and rich on the palate. Put the flair, finesse and firepower of the All Blacks and French rugby teams together as a wine and you would get something very near this.

Bouchard Pere et Fils, 1er Cru Beaune du Chateau 2010: You know, I ‘m not so sure white wine gets much better than this. This is a sublimely brilliant marriage of new (but not excessive) oak and citrus flavours, as zesty as a dissolvable aspirin mixed with lemon and lime and yet as refined as an elderly schoolmistress about to make her confession in church. If your plane crashes, make sure you order a glass of this just before you go down…

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I’ve told you before I love the Moneycorp Daily Briefing. Here’s an excerpt from today’s edition to show you why:

A chap from Chicago by the name of Bill Hillman co-authored a book entitled “Fiesta: How to Survive the Bulls of Pamplona”. It deals with the practicalities of running through the streets of a Spanish town more quickly than the herd of bulls behind you. In one of those PR disasters which should never have happened Mr Hillman demonstrated the fallibility of his advice yesterday when he was mildly gored during the annual bull-running festival. His book has now been remaindered alongside Edward Smith’s “Iceberg Recognition” and “Foolproof Home Security” by Oscar Pistorious.

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Last week I limped to Paris to report on the reveal of the new pillar fragrance from the house of Chloé, called Love Story. Sadly, thanks to a nasty calf strain sustained in the gym the night before I left (reinforcing my view that the only acceptable form of exercise is shopping), the trip for me was more redolent of a Horror Story, replete with strong painkillers, some very last-minute outfit rethinks and – worst of all – flat shoes, a sartorial ghastliness I refused to entertain even when attending Cannes whilst heavily pregnant.

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Chloé’s new Love Story edp, available from late September

On arrival at Gare du Nord things turned a touch Crime Story, when I discovered that my no-show driver had been pulled over by the police. After what felt like a NeverEnding Story, I finally made it to central Paris, to begin the launch proper.

It was worth it. Coty never fails to put on a fabulous event and this was no exception. We began with a delicious lunch at the Hyatt Paris Madeleine – Karl, if you’re reading, I had the roast chicken with apricots in a Medina sauce – followed by an interview with the fragrance face (of which more later). Coty then treated media guests to a tour of the city which shadowed several of the locations featured in the Love Story ad campaign, including the Pont des Arts and the (recently renamed) Marché aux Fleurs Reine Elizabeth II – surely the most perfect possible location for nose Anne Flipo to present the juice.

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The fragrance concept was inspired by the “love-locks” of the Pont des Arts

And what a juice it is. Love Story explores new floral territory for Chloé, which hitherto has focused largely on the rose. The new pillar scent is underpinned by orange blossom, neroli and jasmine stephanotis, a glorious white floral combination that somehow manages to be fresh, sexy and clean all at the same time.

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A genuine bride and groom pose on the bridge

Transport to the Flower Market took the form of vintage convertible Citroen 2CVs, driven by men so typically French they must surely have been cloned in a laboratory, and a boat trip along the River Seine, from which Coty Prestige Group Vice President Marketing Balenciaga, Chloé and Roberto Cavalli Caroline Javoy delivered the marketing low-down.

Make no mistake, Coty has high hopes for this launch, and indeed the brand in general, particularly among Asian consumers who like to purchase it when they travel, as a souvenir of Paris.

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Mon chauffeur: so French it hurts…

In travel retail, Love Story will be launched into the current Chloé distribution, which is more than 2,000 doors, and supported with a number of HPPs in key airport locations. The bigger picture involves boosting the Chloé fragrance brand to a top five position globally.

It certainly looks like a winning formula. The Chloé Love Story concept is clever and coherent, inspired by the famous “love-locks” of the Pont des Arts, a Parisian bridge now extensively decorated with padlocks, which are engraved with the names or initials of couples, who then throw the padlock key into the River Seine below, in a gesture said to represent their love and commitment.

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Nose Anne Flipo introduces the Love Story juice

Both the fragrance flacon and the advertising reference the bridge’s and the Chloé brand’s famous padlocks (hands up if you remember the Paddington It Bag). The Love Story bottle, which incorporates the brand’s signature “pleated” glass, is subtly shaped like a padlock, decorated with a ribbon. The Love Story in question is the whirlwind Parisian romance that blooms between fragrance face Clémence Poésy and her beau.

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Coty Prestige President Jean Mortier with fragrance face Clémence Poésy

Poésy is luminously beautiful in the campaign – and will doubtless help to sell a lot of scent – but sometimes handsome is as handsome does. It’s not exactly encouraging for journalists to hear, before an interview has even started, how exhausted their subject is after a hard day talking to the press (usually while ensconced in a luxury hotel room, being waited on hand, foot and finger by minions). There are much worse ways to earn a living, and as someone who comes from a pretty deprived coal-mining background, I would know.

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The fragrance bar at the Love Story evening event

Coty has been canny enough to work with some absolutely cracking celebrities and spokespeople over the years. Cavalli face Elisa Sednaoui was phenomenally eloquent and expressive at the 2011 Florence reveal. Eva Mendes (the launch face of Secret Obsession in 2008) – was luscious to look at and gave an interview that was warm, amusing, refreshingly candid and full of self-deprecating humour. And then there was Madonna. A genuine global superstar, heroine of my teenage years, who was interesting, articulate, considerate and courteous to every single journalist in the room.

Christine and the Queens
Christine And The Queens get the party started

All I shall say is, having observed La Poésie’s multiple refusals to pose with or even for a selection of media guests both post-interview and at the evening bash, playing the haughty Fleur Delacourt in the Harry Potter films can’t have been that much of a stretch.

However, it mattered not, and did nothing to detract from the overall fabulousness of the event. The Chloé Love Story launch concluded in serious style with a rooftop reception at the Institut du Monde Arabe, which boasts breath-taking views of the Seine and Notre Dame. The Champagne flowed, the canapés kept coming, and a set by rising star Christine And The Queens got the party started – and kept it going til the small hours.

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The Moodie Report’s Rebecca Mann: literally on top of the story

There was no jiving with Jean Mortier on this occasion but, encouraged by the indefatigable Coty team I did manage a little one-legged hobble on the dance floor, fortified by some fizzy liquid painkiller (ahem) that was far more fun than ibuprofen.

The evening, like the day, was a tale of triumph. Chloé’s Love Story launch was epic on every level.

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