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This Blog comes to you (or at least starts) from 38,101 ft above Khanty-Mansisk in Siberia, Russia. I’ve closed my Interim Beijing Bureau and opened its successor onboard Air China flight 855 to London after an exhilarating couple of weeks on the road in Asia.
I’m flying on Air China’s A350-900 and I’m impressed with the experience so far, most notably the free onboard Wi-Fi (surely the way all airlines must go in the future).
My head is in the clouds in more ways than one. I’ve been honoured to be the exclusive travel retail journalist here in the Chinese capital over the past two days as CDF-Sunrise Duty Free and its brand partners celebrated the Grand Opening of a cluster of eight beauty boutiques at Beijing Capital International Airport.
[Click here to view a CDF-Sunrise Duty Free video of the Grand Opening. Note: Ads will run first before the video.]
This is a very big deal, both for China Duty Free Group-Sunrise and for the beauty houses. And it’s pretty big for the travel retail channel, too. The concept of such a large cluster of blue-chip brands is an airport retail first; as are the standalone boutiques for Estée Lauder’s Re-Nutriv store and Lancôme’s Absolue.
The eight brands – Clé de Peau Beauté; Dior; Estée Lauder; Guerlain; La Mer, La Prairie, Lancôme; and Sisley – are all beautifully presented and by dint of space can engage with passengers in a way deemed impossible within the confines of the main beauty store.
It’s an interesting template and perhaps one that should be adopted by more airports and retailers. There was plenty of interesting discussion around that theme last night, which could be summed up by one brand executive’s comment – “This is what we can do when we’re given space.” He and others believe that beauty’s status as the engine room of airport retail growth means it should be given a much greater footprint, primarily at the expense of luxury fashion, a slower-growing, lower-margin category.
Not everyone will agree with that. Airports seek diversity of offering and beauty has already encroached on plenty of space formerly occupied by other categories, much to the chagrin of liquor suppliers, for example. But there is little doubt that beauty’s star is in the ascendency and that the CDF-Sunrise Duty Free model is paying off (the boutiques were soft opened around Chinese New Year) for all parties – not least the consumer.
Last night I joined China Duty Free Group President Charles Chen and other selected guests for a memorable dinner to celebrate the opening, just after a spectacular themed evening event attended by VIPs and KOLs. It was a warm occasion and great to see brand executives from the usually deeply parochial beauty sector exchanging views and sharing drinks in such a convivial collaborative setting.
Each of the boutiques enjoys the same space; each opens to its neighbours; each is complementary to the others in quality, positioning and retail execution. Not for the first time in recent years, China Duty Free Group has laid down an important new marker.