The Moodie Davitt Report Interim Orlando Bureau is closed for another year and I’m back on pretty chilly English terra firma after an evening flight with British Airways.
I routed out of Orlando International Airport, where I took a quick tour of the neat and compact DFASS duty free store (below).
The inaugural Duty Free & Travel Retail Summit of the Americas was a mixed bag, with the key issue being the widely perceived lack of buyers on the main trademarket floor. That was driven by several factors – the intense, Dufry-led retailer consolidation of recent years; an often distressed Caribbean travel retail community; the suites held by bigger brands some distance from the main exhibition area; dilution from the ProWein show in Düsseldorf and Baselworld; and the significant amount of informal business being done by non-exhibitors in the hotel lobby bar.
Trade show success hinges on a healthy buyer-seller ratio. An increase in exhibition space (which this show had over the 2017 Duty Free Show of the Americas) is good but is not the key indicator. Sellers must meet buyers to promote relationships and generate business. Some exhibitors achieved that goal, others didn’t. Many of the bigger brands, notably the beauty houses (which made a welcome return), reported full agendas. Some smaller companies barely saw a buyer. That’s a common outcome for many tradeshows but IAADFS and ASUTIL know they need to work particularly hard over the next year to ensure a stronger buyer presence, not easy when the region has seen so much consolidation. There’s nothing that’s not fixable though given the scale of business in this vast region.
More positively, the new Executive Conference sessions worked really well, with a packed audience on the first two days (day three, predictably, was much thinner). I’m happy to have contributed to that success by moderating proceedings on the first two days. You could have heard a pin drop during my Q&A session with Dufry CEO Julián Díaz and there were also excellent presentations and Q&A exchanges with Carnival Cruise Lines Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer Gustavo Antorcha; AOE Founder and Chief Executive Kian Gould; and Portland Design Director of Environments Lewis Allen.
The final day featured strong data-driven presentations from IATA Director Travel Intelligence Charles de Gheldere; m1nd-set Owner and CEO Peter Mohn; plus an overview of the Duty Free World Council’s work from President Frank O’Connell.
The sessions brought the traditional ASUTIL conference format to the IAADFS’s trademarket focus, an important and successful fusion. The challenge for both associations next year will be to deliver a more cohesive exhibition, while luring more buyers. The idea of a combined Americas show is the right one. However, there is much food for thought and for now the Duty Free & Travel Retail Summit of the Americas remains very much a work in progress. The move to a new venue is a critical and welcome change.