Welcome to The Moodie Davitt Report Interim Miami bureau and my early morning, jet-lagged, Lost in Translation view of a barren car park opposite the Courtyard Marriott. I’ve had plenty of rooms with great views in my many years on the road. This is not one of them. I feel like I’m lost in space.
I’m here in Miami for reasons I can’t (yet) disclose. Let’s just say they revolve around one of travel retail’s leading players, DFASS, and a certain intriguing campaign (below) that you will have noted on The Moodie Davitt Report.com in recent weeks.
It’s been dubbed, ‘Watch this space’ – DFASS. Redefined. Arriving Seventeenth October. 2018.
Well, if my body clock isn’t wrong (although judging by the early hour that I am writing this, it may be), today is 17 October. And I’m here in Miami. Home of DFASS. What’s about to happen? As I said, watch this space…
This trip is the start of an intensive travel period for me. Yesterday it was London to Miami (taking time out at Heathrow, of course, to enter our great Shiseido Travel Retail Journey to Japan rugby competition and to view the new Johnnie Walker ‘White Walker’ in-store, quite the most stunning brand launch I have seen in a long time).
Tomorrow it’s back to the UK and then on to Tokyo Sunday for an equally fascinating assignment. Back to London the following Thursday then across to Shanghai (and The Trinity Forum) Sunday. From there down to Busan for a week and then back to London. Full-on and plenty of chance to see our industry at work. My cup of air miles overfloweth.
Sorry for the absence of my Blog in recent days, largely down to a slower than hoped recovery from a Cannes-driven lurgy. Hopefully I’m back with a (regular) bang now that the greatest (travel retail) show on earth is over. And, believe it or not, I’m not unhappy about the latter fact.
Try telling (as many of you will have) your family, friends and colleagues that a week on the French Riviera in early October is hard work and you risk a reaction bordering between ridicule, incredulity and downright envy. And I suppose, in many ways, they would be right. A week of breakfast-till-early hours meetings, dinners, discussions and sometimes revelry is a pretty agreeable shift when compared to many, nay most, ways of earning a living.
But perhaps it’s age, or simply the sheer freneticism of trade shows in general and Cannes in particular that leave me almost yearning for the end of the week by around… well, Monday evening. My view this year wasn’t enhanced by battling a damned chest infection for which the doctor doesn’t tend to prescribe late nights, sumptuous but long dinners and, of course, the odd drop of great Volnay.
Still, I quibble. TFWA World Exhibition is a colossally influential and successful event in its unlikely ability to bring together a global, increasingly non-Europe focused business in a swanky, over-priced city far from a French regional airport. If the duty free and travel retail trade had been invented in the consolidated, cost-conscious, Asia-centric 21st century instead of in 1947, would the organisers have chosen Cannes? Hardly. The event would perhaps be in Hong Kong, Shanghai or Dubai, or, if Europe, a more accessible city such as Barcelona.
And yet… and yet… Cannes flourishes. Hotels booked out (we booked a late addition to The Moodie Davitt team into a hotel where you could not swing the paw of a cat let alone the entire feline – and it carried a 3-star rating… the hotel not the cat); restaurants overflowing; traditional taxis and Uber doing very nicely thank you.
It will be interesting to see the direction TFWA takes under a new Management Committee and Board (both elected in Cannes) and, of course, a new President (to be elected in December). Erik Juul-Mortensen’s shoes are big ones to fill. Who will come forward to try them on? We’ll know any external candidates by early November, allied to some of the touted candidates. Expect at least one surprise.
Mind you, it’s a dangerous job being President. As you can see from the film below, I helped foil a kidnapping in Cannes of the incumbent.
Whoever the new President is, they will discover an association and sector in good heart. If there was such a thing as a travel retail confidence indicator – and if the Cannes event was a key component of it – then undoubtedly the show of 2018 would manifest a glowing result. Apart from the well-documented problems of key Latin American markets, travel retail is in good health – a view very well articulated by L’Oréal Luxe President and L’Oréal Deputy CEO Nicolas Hieronimus and Managing Director Vincent Boinay at Monday night’s packed retailer dinner.
Hieronimus told the industry’s leading retailers, “You should believe in us because we believe in travel retail. We’ve always supported travel retail – there can be clouds in the sky amounting to a storm. But as we’ve seen today [a reference to the big winds in Cannes that threatened to derail the annual dinner], storms come and go but L’Oreal remains to foster your growth and hopefully ours.”
The dinner, always a highlight of my week, is like a microcosm of the travel retail industry gathered in one room. Each table carries the name of a key travel retail location and is packed with retailers from that region.
The top table is dubbed Sixth Continent, the beauty group’s brilliant adopted term to encapsulate the travel retail universe. Its diners included the leaders of the leading players, from Dufry to Gebr Heinemann to DFS to Ever Rich. I’ve always thought that the unofficial dialogue from this table each year would make the most fascinating, albeit unpublishable industry White Paper of all.
Hieronimus made a neat play on the familiar ‘VUCA’ acronymn [i.e. volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of market conditions] quoted at that morning’s TFWA Conference, changing the definition to “volatility, uncertainty and Chinese-activated” in a reference to the pivotal global influence of the Chinese travelling shopper.
We’ll all find out more about the ‘Chinese-activated’ point when we arrive in Shanghai later this month for the annual Trinity Forum. For the volatility and uncertainty look no further than Latin America, the stock markets (jittery would be an understatement amid the Khashoggi stand-off and China-US trade tensions).
Complexity? Heck, just about every day in this mad, magnificent world that is travel retail. Ambiguity? Well, I suppose that’s open to interpretation…