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It’s sunny but cold here in Seoul, as we move towards kick-off time for the 2012 Trinity Forum that begins tonight with the traditional Opening Cocktail.
On Friday I took a break from preparations for the event to catch up with three retailing powerhouses – Lotte Duty Free, Korean Air and The Shilla Duty Free.
I always enjoy visiting Lotte’s flagship downtown duty free store, now spread over three floors. With sales of more than US$900 million last year this is the single most successful off-airport duty free store in the world. This year the company is targeting revenue of US$1 billion and judging by the impressive levels of shopping activity I saw during my short visit, that figure may be conservative.
The ‘Star Avenue’ entrance to the Lotte building, featuring many of the biggest names in K Pop, is surely the most vibrant entry to any duty free store on the planet. Scores of young Korean, Japanese and Chinese women line up every day to have their photos taken by giant images of their idols. It’s great to see.
[Martin Moodie (second from right) with Lotte Duty Free senior management at the retailer’s Seoul headquarters. From left: Steve Park, Team Leader/Strategy & Planning Team; Lee Jong Hwan, Managing Director Planning Division; Lee Hong-Kyun, Executive Managing Director Merchandising Division and Allen Hong, Chief Buyer/Merchandising Team]
From central Seoul it was a quick (make that slow) dash across the city to the Mayfield Hotel near Gimpo Airport where I had an enjoyable lunch with Korean Air Senior Vice President Catering & Inflight Sales Business Division Heather Cho and Won Kim, who runs one of Korea’s best duty free agencies Brandepot. Heather’s business dwarfs other inflight retailers. Last year sales reached an incredible US$205 million, probably double the next biggest onboard retail operation. She is a human dynamo, whose onboard shopping magazine, SkyShop (produced monthly) is a classic of its genre.
As the photo shows, it’s cold here in Seoul, a far cry from the lovely spring weather of 2008 when we lunched (and were photographed) in the same place (below).
After lunch, another hour in dense Seoul traffic to The Shilla Duty Free’s downtown store, where I met Jeong-Ho (Jason) Cha, Executive VP & Head of The Shilla Duty Free. Every year since 2008 Shilla has posted revenue growth of over +30% (last year it was +31%), a remarkable performance.
2011 was a banner year for the retailer – it opened the world’s first Louis Vuitton airport store (at Incheon International), made its retailing debut in Macau (at the Venetian) and started up its Gimpo Airport perfumes & cosmetics concession.
Three phenomenal businesses, all part of the vibrant travel retail landscape here in Seoul. What a great setting for the 2012 Trinity Forum which starts tonight with the Opening Cocktail.
It’s going to be a fantastic couple of days, and already the Grand Hyatt Hotel (fully booked) is packed with travel retail executives from all over the world. I can’t wait for the event to get under way.