Farväl to Yngve Bia, the man who created The Moodie Report

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My name may always have been on the masthead but The Moodie Report (now The Moodie Davitt Report) would not exist without Yngve Bia Pettersson (Yngve Bia), who so sadly passed in December.

Yngve, the founder and long-time owner of Generation Publications and Generation Research, genuinely deserved that so often overused epithet ‘industry pioneer’. He was far more than that, though. Yngve was a gentle, kind and funny soul, albeit a troubled one on occasions too, as people of great creativity often are.

Yngve Bia: A gentle, kind and funny soul

As a 20 year-old graduate, Yngve had headed from his native Sweden to Hong Kong in 1971, describing Asia as  “the world of tomorrow”. There he worked for a Swiss company named Siber Hegner & Co (and a local spin-off business named Pacific Luxury Products with offices in Hong Kong Central’s Prince’s Building).

Pacific Luxury Products was the Asia Pacific agent for Guerlain, Le Galion Parfums, Juvena cosmetics, Lindt chocolate, Cutty Sark, Ricola and Hermès scarves and ties.

“I actually met [DFS Co-Founder] Bob Miller when I arrived in Hong Kong in 1971 with my boss Fritz Peyer,” Yngve recalled years later. “We made tonnes of business with DFS with these Hermès scarves and ties, enormously popular with the Japanese especially.

“Not only DFS bought our Hermès scarves and ties, interested retailers came to us from all of Asia. I remember an Indonesian guy turned up, wanting to buy 5,000 Hermès ties. ‘OK, but I’ve only got black ones [i.e. for funeral attendance]’, I said jokingly. ‘No problem’, he said. ‘I take them all.’ That’s how popular Hermes ties were!”

The birth of Best ’n Most’

By the time I entered the business in 1987, Yngve’s annual ‘Best ’n Most’ – created in Hong Kong in 1979 and later run for years from his home town in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden – was the only source of data on the global duty free channel (the term travel retail would not come into sector parlance until the 1990s).

The result of months of painstaking work by Yngve and his dedicated team, it was War and Peace in its thickness (in an interview with Doug Newhouse of TR Business he once called it a “1,200-page and 1.7 kilo annual summary of the global DF&TR industry”), extraordinarily detailed in its thoroughness, and indispensable for its sizing and segmentation of the channel and the brand and SKU distribution rankings within it. People would sometimes challenge its findings but no-one would ignore it.

Yngve and ‘Best ’n Most’ would play a critical role in the conceptualisation, launch and naming of The Moodie Report in 2002. When I left Duty-Free News International and its then publisher Euromoney early that year, Yngve hired me to write the ‘Best ’n Most’ commentaries while together we plotted the launch of a new kind of travel retail publication.

In that glorious Swedish summer of 2002 we spent a week playing golf on various courses across the northern coast and central Sweden, talking between shots (of which with me there were far too many but certainly not in Yngve’s case – he brought the same steady and exacting approach to his golf as he did to statistics) and over breakfast, lunch and dinner about what this publication might look like.

He introduced me to a tiny and magical island called Trysunda, a short ferry ride from Örnsköldsvik on Sweden’s High Coast (Höga Kusten) where I later spent two idyllic summer holidays with my children living in a boathouse. At his home he would play the piano (superbly) and sing a combination of Elton John’s (‘Your Song’ was a favourite) and his own compositions (some of which had been recorded by a Swedish singer called Brian ‘Bee’ Frank – I still have the recording in London, alas inaccessible for now along with all my photos of us in happier times).

What might have been Travel Shopping Intelligence but at Yngve’s insistence became The Moodie Report was born on 16 September 2002. Click on image to enlarge.

I wanted to call the new venture Travel Shopping Intelligence to differentiate it from the traditional print sector media of the time. It would be purely digital, a report not a magazine and distributed by email. Our first year’s revenue target was a princely £96,000. Yngve argued against the name. “You know Martin,” he told me in his melodic pitched accent that I can hear now as I write. “I think we should put your name on it. And we should call it a report.”

A few weeks later he created The Moodie 100 Confidence Indicator (M100CI as he called it with his trademark analyst’s perspective), built around five indices, 21 sector sub-indices and 100 individual components. It sounded fiendishly complicated but its final expression as a sector confidence indicator was a triumph.

While Yngve and I eventually parted ways amicably to each focus on what we did best (he later helped his long-time friend Doug Newhouse at Travel Retail Business launch the TREND website, now TRBusiness.com, a successful collaboration that lasted several years), we maintained close contact. In 2015 he sold Generation to Fredrik Lindh, prompting my words below that ring true even more loudly today.

The same year Yngve moved to Cascais in Portugal, living in an apartment with fabulous views of the Sintra mountains in the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the south. He played music with friends, fine-tuned his golf game (even creating his own performance index of his games at the nine-hole Golf do Estoril course), met up with fellow Swedes in Lisbon once a month at an ‘After Work Club’, got fit and healthy with a personal trainer and walked his beloved dog Kiki.

He invited me repeatedly to Portugal to recreate the ‘Worst ‘n Least Cup!’ we had played for annually during earlier years in Örnsköldsvik. I curse myself for always feeling too busy with work to take up the opportunity.

Yngve was happy. “Before (prior to the private trainer) when I walked Kiki, women we met on the street only looked at Kiki, but now I observe that they cast an eye on me, too!” he wrote to me in 2018. “A well-built elderly gentleman with energy in his steps! Not much hair left, but who cares? You know, Martin!”

In 2018 we hooked up again and jointly began publishing another of Yngve’s canny initiatives – Spending Power Evolution by Nationality & Country of Destination – The Moodie SPEND Index. The service, which ran until the pandemic’s impact deepened in July 2020, tracked the impact of currency fluctuations across key travelling nationalities and destination countries – a key driver of travel retail spending. Yngve wrote under the pseudonym of Max Lazer, a name that appealed to his sense of whimsy.

In an industry that has so often cried out for transparency of data but so seldom been able to deliver it, Yngve was a voice of reason and great persistence. A sometimes lonely voice who took the often unkind and unfair criticism of his data personally but refused to give up his battle for greater industry information sharing.

Frustrated, he once wrote to me: “For 30 years I have preached the benefits of transparency, ‘to give is to get’ and ‘help us make the world of DF & TR understandable’ and so on. Relatively few have listened, preferring just to be on the side-line observing and enjoying the free data.”

Yngve gave. Many got. I was one of them. Farväl Yngve, Mr ‘Best ’n Most’, Mr Generation and the man who created The Moodie Report.

{Readers can post their comments below}

  • Such a gentle, unassuming man – but beneath that shy exterior, was an intellect and a gravitas rarely encountered. It was a joy and an honour to have known you, Yngve. Rest in peace my friend.

  • When I arrived at Mary Quant from Scottish television I was used to having a plethora of market research at hand.
    I was surprised and in fact shocked at how little market research there was in travel retail and Generation was a beacon of light in a sea of darkness.!
    Over the years I had numerous discussions with Yngve and supplied him with data on a regular basis and always found him to be courteous ,very professional, meticulous and considerate.
    His work was enormously helpful to me at the time .
    He was certainly one of the people in the industry that I had a great deal of respect for and will be sorely missed.

  • A man ahead of his time – perhaps one of the true ‘un-sung’ visionaries in this industry. He had a beautiful, gentlemanly manner about him and was always kind.

  • I was so sad to read of Eva Østlund’s note that Yngve passed away. Best n’ Most was indeed a bible of many buyers worldwide, I recall many meetings where every statement by me covering my brand always were checked up in the publication, never a chance to oversell performance. (Made things stricky sometimes….)

    Yngve’s sense of humor was fantastic and his timing of punchlines made all funny stories even funnier.

    A true gentleman, I am sure there is a special golf course for such a fine person, no bunkers, no rough.

    Rest peacefully dear old friend.

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