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Well that one slipped under the radar didn’t it?
As I was passing through my second home (Heathrow Airport) on Saturday night, I was surprised to see a brand spanking new Louis Vuitton store in Terminal 3.
Now, finding a Louis Vuitton store in an airport is like spotting an Okapi, a Sao Tome Shrew, a Red Wolf, a Javan Rhino, a Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat or any other rare species one cares to name (I am prepared to wager good money , by the way, that this is the first time in the history of the English or French languages that Louis Vuitton and the Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat have been mentioned in the same sentence).
For years, decades in fact, Louis Vuitton, arguably the world’s great luxury brand, shunned the airport retail channel. That was despite the fact that its parent company, LVMH, bought a controlling stake in DFS Group in late 1996.
On 10 September, 2011 that all changed when The Shilla Duty Free opened an extraordinary 550sq m Louis Vuitton boutique at Incheon International Airport. I was there on that landmark day for Korean travel retail. It was, and is, a glorious store, although it is now part of Lotte Duty Free’s rather than Shilla’s contract. Interestingly, if Lotte does back its threat to withdraw from Incheon due to what it considers an excessive rent burden caused by the THAAD-related collapse in Chinese visitors and spending, Louis Vuitton could well disappear from the Korean airport scene.
Then, in late 2014, it opened its first Heathrow store (pictured below), at Terminal 5, a 301sq m store built as part of a new luxury retail environment. It was a marriage of a great brand with one of the world’s great airports and said much about Heathrow’s serious pulling power with the luxury sector.
Next January Louis Vuitton will make its debut at Changi Airport Terminal 3 with what promises to be a fabulous 530sq m duplex store. The boutique, designed as a glass house, will be located in the T3 departure/transit hall, and will form the centrepiece of the Crystal Garden, the latest themed garden to open at the Singapore gateway.
There may have been strategic reasons not to make a lot of fuss about the latest announcement but I can promise you that the opening of a second Louis Vuitton boutique is a very British coup for Heathrow.