Elegance, surprise and newness: Nuance’s new retail arena in Toronto

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At the official opening of Nuance’s new store environment at Toronto Pearson International T1 on Tuesday, you could sense the surge of pride among many of the group’s management and teams in this execution. No wonder: it’s certainly the company’s best store in North America, perhaps even worldwide.

It ticks many of the right boxes: it’s got an elegance gained through the addition (for the first time here) of a luxury boutique zone but also through the grand sweep of the main store and the executions of P&C, upscale spirits and others. The word ‘engagement’ can be an over-used one in our business, but it’s pretty apt here. Every few yards in the core category store there is something happening, whether it’s a liqueur or spirit tasting, digital signage hailing a new promotion or an artisanal local producer showing off their craft. It’s interactivity at its best.

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Nuance’s President & CEO Roberto Graziani and GTAA President & CEO Howard Eng delight in the new environment

There’s newness in the brand offer right across the range. That includes the first stand-alone Longchamp store in North American travel retail, or the Salvatore Ferragamo boutique that is the first of its kind in Canada. Or the Gucci boutique, which is the first Canadian duty free to carry both watches and jewellery.

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Not all luxury brands wanted to join the party, with some uncertainty about how a store environment without ceilings or traditional lighting schemes might work – some of those brands will be regretting their lack of involvement here today, especially with transaction values soaring in the early weeks. We are hearing of spends up to C$60,000 in some of the boutiques among Asian passengers.

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Tom Ford Beauty: One of many new ranges for Toronto T1

There’s newness in the vital beauty business too. La Prairie, SK-II – which is the currently the first SK-II store in Canada’s domestic and travel retail portfolio – Kiehl’s, and a nail and lip care Tom Ford Beauty offer are all new to the airport.

And there’s local flavour in spades. Tastefully Canadian (pictured top) is one of the stand-out destination merchandise stores anywhere, and certainly among those housed within a core category environment. It’s instantly visible from the store entrance, has lovely appeal with the use of the major woods of Canada in the fixturing, and has an offer that doesn’t talk down to the consumer, ranging from Nuance’s own products to those sourced through local artisans and even museum pieces from the Art Gallery of Ontario. The ice wine bar with its nearby Peller showcase is simply superb.

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Nuance refreshed its own brand of Tastefully Canadian products for this new store

It’s difficult to find too many faults: the muted nature of the confectionery offer and display, relative to other parts of the store, would perhaps be one; and the merchandising of tobacco does not leap out as it does in other Nuance markets.

But overall this is an environment to match the very best in North American duty free. Of those I’ve visited recently, DFS at LAX Tom Bradley International Terminal impresses hugely too, notably in its boutique executions, as here; ARI at Montreal Trudeau has many lovely touches too, not least in its Sense of Place offer.

This is also unmistakeably a Nuance environment, the culmination of many Duty Free Store concept executions (to which The Design Solution is a key contributor) over recent years.

Finally, the excellence at Toronto makes this a bitter sweet moment too, as the uncertainty of the impending Dufry acquisition of Nuance looms over many of the staff at Nuance HQ and across the regions. Whatever happens in the months ahead though, Toronto T1 is a marker in which Nuance can rightly take pride.

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