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Closing time at The Moodie Davitt Report Interim Cannes Bureau always provokes mixed emotions. After all the frenzy and fun of the week, it’s suddenly time to pack your bags, close the door behind you on your latest temporary location and head for another airport, another check-in queue, another security line.
For me, the next stop, thankfully but temporarily, is home. And then it’s back on the road again: Hong Kong, Beijing, Tokyo, Doha, Tokyo (again), Busan and home. And who knows where else might pop into the schedule in the interim.
It’s nice to be writing this from the familiarity of my home, looking out over my garden as the birds take their autumn pickings from the restocked feeders, my music serenading my writing while memories of Cannes swirl in my mind. I am taking the nowadays rare pleasure of smoking a (very) large Montecristo cigar, while sipping on a nice earthy Dão red from Portugal.
Cuba to Portugal. It reminds me of the universality of the travel retail community, one of the sector’s most attractive traits and one played out to vivid effect in Cannes.
Such a week. From a pure business perspective, a very important one for me – the title I created 17 years ago held in higher esteem than ever; wall-to-wall meetings, media conferences, interviews, lunches and dinners the order of the day (and night); the show organised with admirable efficiency and much flair, as always, by TFWA. Many new friends made; many old ones caught up with.
So many vignettes, so many reminders that in this dark and oft troubled world, good people from all nations go about their daily work, bringing not only commerce but common sense, camaraderie and compassion to this great universal party. I am privileged to work within such an enriching community.
How then to best sum up my Cannes week? I will focus on some personal moments that moved, thrilled or educated me.
1. MARTIN’S BLOCK IS BORN
This must rank as my favourite moment of any Cannes show over the past 31 years. Just two weeks before TFWA World Exhibition, I made a whistle-stop trip to my native New Zealand to exclusively report on the global travel retail launch of Snowberry skincare by brand owner P&G, in association with Lagardère Travel Retail at Auckland Airport.
Just days later, on the eve of Cannes, we published a special eZine celebrating the history, provenance and future of this fascinating natural ingredients skincare brand. In that publication I detailed Snowberry’s unique carbon offset plan – all local staff members and all the Snowberry team globally will be asked to plant their own plants when they visit the magnificent Snowberry Gardens, 90 minutes north of Auckland, in order to offset their carbon emissions.
As a reminder, here are my words from that article:
“Do you know what Martin’s block is?” co-founder Mark Henderson asks me as we near the end of our Snowberry Gardens tour.
“Nope,” I reply.
“We’ve got an initiative starting soon and maybe you’ll be the guinea pig,” he explains with a chuckle. “We’re planning that all staff members – and eventually all the Snowberry team globally – are going to plant their own plants when they come here, to offset their emissions.”
“I’m going to have to plant quite a few,” I say, guiltily mindful of the four return transcontinental UK-Asia Pacific trips I have taken in the past month alone.”
“Each time you make a trip here, you are able to add to your block. We will plant either some Kānuka or Mānuka for you and we’re going to allocate that as Martin’s Block,” says Henderson. “Our carbon-zero accreditation covers every product and everything relating to the production, freight and embodied emissions of the products but it doesn’t cover all of us as individuals.”
During Cannes, P&G Global Travel Retail General Manager Shweta Sharma, a dynamic and charismatic executive who had been on the Snowberry trip with me, asked for a meeting. When I got there and asked for her reaction to the publication she replied with a smile and said, “We have something for you.”
It was a two-sided framed photo. One side showed a patch of newly cleared land at Snowberry Gardens. Not just newly cleared but newly planted with native New Zealand plants – the base from which all Snowberry products are produced. A sign written in Snowberry’s familiar delicate graphics showed a native bird on the branch of a tree below a sign saying Martin Moodie’s Carbon Block. The other side carried the same sign underneath the words ‘Martin’s Snowberry Garden Visit Carbon Offset 2019’.
There was one more surprise in store. “We have a video for you,” said Shweta. Reaching for her iPad she showed me a short clip filmed from above by drone that showed the cleared land being planted with my offsets, set against the ravishing backdrop of the sub-tropical paradise that is Snowberry Gardens.
It was the most thoughtful and touching of gestures and one that made me redouble my vows to do more to help preserve our planet.
2. THE RETURN OF THE TIGERS
To see a multi-coloured Tata Hexa, turn into Rue Bivouac Napoléon, horn blaring, on Saturday evening, was a magical moment.
The car (known affectionately as TRiger) belonged of course to Gautom Menon and Paul Vedanayagam, co-pilots of the epic Wild Tiger Kerala-to-Cannes ‘Roartrip’. The tigerish twosome completed an epic 64-day journey from their hometown in India to a very different setting on the French Riviera that night and it was heart-warming to see such a big crowd turn out to welcome them at Ma Nolan’s pub, at a unique homecoming party organised by The Moodie Davitt Report and Rowena Holland of Essential Communications.
The journey was all about raising publicity for the critical cause of tiger conservation – though the pair did a whole lot of good for the duty free industry along the way.
The Moodie Davitt Report covered the journey in a special Blog, The Moodie Davitt Roarport, and I’m proud of the effort that my team, led by Colleen Morgan, Jason Holland, Liam Coleman and myself put in to bring the journey to life. Bravo Wild Tiger, you are absolutely roarsome and rumtastic ambassadors for our industry. You have truly earned your stripes – and our eternal respect.
Footnote: It would have been nice to see some official recognition of the Wild Tiger effort though. Where was the city of Cannes on this one? Gautom takes up the story.
“Whilst the Roar Trip has been a tremendous success and brought us a lot of happiness, as humans we are all allowed to have disappointments too. The City of Cannes have shown absolute disregard for our initiative of supporting Tiger conservation and equally promoting the city of Cannes.
“We have spoken to countless people along the way and done numerous press interviews; we truly believe we have done a lot to get people around the world more aware of this great city. We only wish the authorities replicated some recognition and love for us.
“We had written to them prior and asked for permission to allow us to park our vehicle TRiger in front of the venue which we arrived into. And the City Council after much deliberation wrote back saying, “Happy news, you can park the car at a cost of €1,200.”
3. THE RETURN OF THE IRISH
Not for the first time in recent history, TFWA World Exhibition coincided with the Rugby World Cup, the latter held every four years. As a result, Ma Nolan’s pub at times almost turned into another show village (green one day, blue another, and both yellow and red simultaneously – Australia v Wales) as delegates from all over the rugby-playing world headed there to watch the games.
The biggest attendance of the week was for the epic Wales v Australia showdown on Saturday morning (won by Wales 29-25 and, yes, I admit I picked that one wrong), though there were plenty of distracted Frenchmen at the show during the country’s match with the USA on the Wednesday morning. My beloved All Blacks are going well and seem likely to face their close foe, the Irish, after the latter’s shock loss to hosts Japan on the opening Saturday of the Cannes show.
I was there at Nice Airport to discuss that day’s result with arriving Irishmen Dermot Davitt (my business partner) and David Spillane, owner of GTR Sales and a great contributor to our industry. I was, of course, appropriately sympathetic to their team’s plight.
5. WINE O’CLOCK
I have long bemoaned the lack of attention that the wine category commands in travel retail. This year we set about changing that via a dedicated workshop called Wine O’Clock, organised in association with Singaporean PR, communications and design agency Filtr – best-in-class in their sector by some distance in my view.
It was an encouraging success. We talked wine, championed wine, and – of course – drank wine. Some great wines, in fact, courtesy of sponsors Masi, Treasury Wine Estates, Distell, Viña Concha y Toro and Peuch & Besse. It was factual, fun and forward-thinking. The highlight for me was the presentation of a special award to Gebr Heinemann’s Kay Spanger for his contribution to the category. Remarkably, Kay has just completed 40 years with the company, a landmark we also paid tribute to in an article in our Cannes show edition. Words barely do justice to the magnitude of his contribution on numerous fronts, from fragrance to fine wine.
5. TFWA CONFERENCE
A highlight for me even though I did not attend? Yes, oddly enough. For while I disagreed virulently with the choice of former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair as keynote speaker – a man considered a war criminal by much of the British public (and many others around the world) – I also respect the right of others to hold contrasting opinions.
Several members of the TFWA Board and Management Committee engaged with me during the week in positively constructive discussions about the choice of speaker and acknowledged my concerns while defending their choice. Which is as it should be in a thankfully still democratic world. The right of media to hold opinions and to question is vital at every level of society and business.
If I have ensured closer scrutiny of future speaker choices, my stance will have been worth it.
6. A COGNAC FOR WOMEN
Meet Olga Otrokhova, the mastermind behind Monfleurie Cognac. Olga, a long-time Cognac aficionado, had long dreamed of making a Cognac that was not traditionally ‘masculine’ and heavy.
She found the answer through Maison Boinaud, an historic Grande Champagne producer that has practiced single-estate Cognac making for 24 generations. Settling on a remarkable liquid that originated from the 1960 harvest, Ms Otrokhova, together with the Boinaud family, blended it with hundreds of eaux-de-vie from the company cellars. The end result was a Cognac that she says “celebrates the beauty and spirit of the modern woman”.
Each edition will be themed to a flower embodied on the cap and collar. The Launch Edition is dedicated to an Orchid (orchidée in French), the flower symbolising feminine beauty, endurance and love.
I can’t yet speak for the Cognac but I can for the packaging, which features a magnificent hand-blown crystal decanter, engraved by an artist in the Cognac region. The decanter is crowned with a cap featuring an elegant design of orchids, reminiscent of fine jewellery. But all that splendour is topped by a beautiful lacquered wooden case that is as rich and sumptuous an example of packaging as I have ever seen in the drinks industry.
At €3,000 this is no everyday purchase, but one suspects that won’t deter collectors and lovers of great luxury Cognac. In a largely male-dominated world of Cognac there’s a new and striking female influence in town.
7. BEAUTY FOR ALL TRAVELLERS
The annual L’Oréal Travel Retail press conference on the Wednesday morning lived up to its reputation as a must-attend event, offering as it always does an outstanding insight into market trends as well as company developments.
The group’s retailer dinner the night before (which The Moodie Davitt Report is always honoured to be asked to join) was pretty special too. This is a veritable who’s who of travel retail and it’s fascinating to see the industry’s most powerful executives gathered around a single ‘Sixth Continent’ table.
The dinner was graced by Nicolas Hieronimus, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, In Charge of Divisions at L’Oréal Group who, as always, spoke eruditely about beauty’s role in travel retail. “It’s very important to me to come here and to bring the testimony of L’Oreal’s commitment to travel retail. I come here, first of all, to thank our partners from all around the world: our operators, our customers, the airports, and, if one day they want to come, the airlines. And I really want to thank you all for your support and for making this incredible travel retail engine fly,” he told guests. L’Oréal’s constant belief and investment in the category has itself played a major role in that take-off, it must be said.
8. ENTERING A MAGICAL NEW SPIRIT WORLD
Mid-week I was privileged to get a personal tour of Pernod Ricard’s suite at the Majestic Hotel in the expert hands of Global Travel Retail Chairman & CEO Mohit Lal. Suite? Make that a curated collection of innovation ranging across the retailer’s star-studded portfolio with a dazzling array of new concepts, products (including the dazzling Royal Salute 25yo Treasured Blend), packaging and merchandising concepts.
Some remain top-secret, but all underline a relentless pursuit of innovation via an eclectic melange of personalisation, premiumisation and digitalisation, underpinned by values of artisanship, brilliant packaging, sustainability, Corporate Social Responsibility and much more besides. In all my years of coming to Cannes – and that is over three decades’ worth – never have I seen a more compelling pipeline of product development.
9. WINE SHOWDOWN BEFORE A RUGBY SHOWDOWN?
The La Prairie senior management team invited me for drinks on the Wednesday, the follow-up to a conversation about wine we had at June’s launch of Skin Caviar Eye Lift.
The date set long in advance, we duly proceeded with a delightful conclusion to a long working day, with great wines in great company. A lovely velvety Central Otago Pinot Noir from Peregrine in New Zealand and a deeper more complex Nuits-Saint-Georges from France, both preceded by a nicely chilled, rounded and gently buttery Puligny-Montrachet.
I am pictured below with (from left) newly promoted Katharina Walther, now General Manager for Travel Retail (TR) Europe, TR Americas, TR & Domestic Markets Middle East; CEO Patrick Rasquinet; Vice President Travel Retail Worldwide and Board Member Laurent Marteau; and the company’s new Business Development Director for Travel Retail Sabine Fagan. It was good, by the way, to see Sabine, the long-time Lagardère Travel Retail Executive Vice President Purchasing & Retail, back in the business.
What then of the wines? A forerunner of an All Blacks v France Rugby World Cup showdown? New Zealand or French victory? I called it an honourable draw. I suspect, however, that Laurent believed it was a clear French triumph.
10. ANNIVERSARY TIME IN CONFECTIONERY
Two of travel retail’s leading confectionery houses, Nestlé International Travel Retail and Mondelēz World Travel Retail, celebrated auspicious anniversaries for their respective dedicated divisions in Cannes, Nestlé its 20th and Mondelez its 25th.
Besides the warm words to business partners and their teams, it was nice to see both divisional leaders, Stewart Dryburgh and Jaya Singh pay warm tribute to the individuals who had pioneered each organisation – David Spillane (now running his own highly successful company, GTR Sales, out of Ireland) and Markus Gerber, respectively.
11. SOAKING UP THE SPIRIT OF PROVENCE
Is there a more vibrant, colourful, sumptuous brand in travel retail than L’Occitane en Provence, founded in 1976 by Olivier Baussan to celebrate the beauty, traditions and products of his native Provence?
And what a glorious celebration it is. I got to discover more about the brand with my guide extraordinaire Faozia Math-Ly-Roun, Area Manager Travel Retail Manager UK & Middle East; and also met up with Stephen Anthony, General Manager Travel Retail EMEA (left); and Yvick Moisnay de Boisheraud, Area Manager Travel Retail Europe. I’ve planned in a visit to L’Occitane production facilities next Spring and I can’t wait.
12. BORN IN GRASSE, RAISED IN NEW YORK
One of my favourite features in our blockbuster print and online edition for the Cannes show was Hannah Tan-Gillie’s interview with Fabrice Penot and Eddie Roschi, Co-Founders of fragrance house Le Labo, now owned by The Estée Lauder Companies. Le Labo’s boutiques, the article revealed, are a testament to the founders’ commitment to craftsmanship and personalisation.
I got to discover both during a visit to the brilliant Le Labo stand in the group’s splendidly spacious, new-look exhibition area. Le Labo prides itself on tapping into a consumer desire for bespoke creations. They certainly tapped into mine. A highly engaging and informed young Irishman called Liam talked me through some of the creations on offer. Minutes after I indicated my partiality for the zesty grapefruit character of Bergamote 22 Eau de Parfum (described neatly by Cult Beauty as “an acrobatic act on your wrists”), I was presented with a personalised bottle (see below).
Compounded: in Cannes by Liam.
For: Moodie San.
I shall wear it with not only pleasure but with a very personal sense of pride.
13. TRAVEL RETAIL MEDIA’S TOP TALENT POOL #THINKPINKTR
The Moodie Davitt Report brought its largest-ever team to the TFWA World Exhibition, reflecting both the event’s status as the travel retail’s premier trade show and our commitment to providing the industry’s best coverage.
Our 11-strong editorial and commercial team were out in force, all resplendent in pink to reflect our #thinkpinkTR campaign in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October and The Estée Lauder Companies Breast Cancer Campaign. What a pleasure and privilege it is to lead the best team in the business.
… AND SOME OTHER MOMENTS