From Cannes commotion to the land of the morning calm

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

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I begin this Blog on a glorious, balmy autumn evening in London but, in common I suspect with many TFWA World Exhibition delegates, I’m feeling just a shade less than glorious.

No, not because I overdid the hospitality on the final couple of nights (although I admit to drinking a bottle or… two of some very nice Saint Veran and Sancerre with Andrew Carter, Dermot Davitt, Rakhita Jayawardena and other near-teetotaller characters over the final couple of nights) but because this show, more than any other, simply takes its toll due to its relentless day and nice pace. And because I’m back on the road just as the body craves (with some desperation) rest.

I’m at London Heathrow Airport, 24 hours after returning from Cannes and heading for the very different world of South Korea. Terminal 4 is generally very good in terms of its commercial offer – some of my favourite images are shown below – but tonight I witnessed what must be the worst (though no doubt he thought it was the best) example of counter service I have ever seen in this business.

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[A lovely ‘Little Luxury’ idea from Diageo, offering elegant miniatures of some of its key lines together with a stylish gift bag] 

The customer (a very stylish young Korean woman) was at the till, polite and gracious. The young assistant was neither. Too cocky by the power of about 20, he thought raising his voice several decibels (to the point of shouting) and repeating himself loudly would help communicate his messages (boarding card, chosen payment currency etc.) to a consumer who quite frankly would have been well within her rights to walk away. Frankly I felt like slapping him and I’m sure the woman did too.

The chap on the next till who served me was much better, even though he did say it was ok to take the three bottles of wine I had selected into South Korea. It wasn’t – the allowance is one bottle of any liquor, I discovered. I wasn’t convinced by his reply (I should know the allowance but didn’t, thinking it was two bottles) but bought anyway and fortunately wasn’t stopped on arrival). Shop staff (and their paymasters) all over the world need to know these things.

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[The brilliant new Accenture ad campaign at Heathrow Airport en route to security check]

I’m bound for the city of Incheon, to attend and speak at the first ‘IDutyFree’ conference and exhibition, which has attracted a strong programme for an inaugural event in the world’s biggest duty free market.

Korea’s a country – and a travel retail market – I know well, having travelled there on multiple occasions each year since 1989. With the Incheon International Airport duty free tender expected soon, and several new players entering the downtown scene, it’s a market in change. So it’s a key event to be at. I’ll bring you my impressions soon.

TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes was draining but excellent. The highlight of an excellent opening conference was the address of former US Secretary of State General Colin Powell, who confirmed the widely held perception that he was the sole good apple in the otherwise rotten basket of fruit that was George W Bush’s regime during the time of the fateful and ultimately illegitimate decision to invade Iraq.

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Moderator Stephen Sackur asked Powell if he chose the wrong political party because he seems so out of sync with conservative Republicanism (certainly on issues such as racism, immigration – which he defended brilliantly – abortion and public health). Powell nodded, joking that his friends call him a RINO – Republican in Name Only.

On Iraq… well, let’s just say he was less convincing. “I supported the decision [to invade],” he said. “I don’t regret the President’s decision. But I regret that we didn’t execute properly… we allowed Iraq to fall into absolute disarray.”

There you have the (ongoing) catastrophe and obscene human tragedy of the past 11 years passed off in revisionist fashion as a failure merely in terms of follow-up. No mention of the long-proven absence of the very justification for the invasion – the possession of weapons of mass destruction). Whatever one’s political views, Powell remains a loyal, though flawed American leader but also an enlightened one, and his views on the obscenity of racism and the need for balanced immigration made for inspiring listening.

Events had actually teed off for us two days before the conference when we hosted the annual Moodie International Honorary Superstars Invitation Tournament (MIS-HIT), our opportunity to thank some very special supporters and, more importantly, friends down the years.

This year’s trophy was won by a trio (below) comprising (left to right with me, a perennial non-winner, sandwiched in-between) former Revlon executive Art Miller, King Power’s Antares Cheng and (this will come as no surprise) The Moodie Report’s own Dermot ‘Divot’ Davitt, the latter now on the hottest of hot industry trophy streaks to rival anything Tiger Woods has ever done in the professional game.

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The legendary ‘Blue Jacket’ was won by Fraport’s Martin Turek after a dazzling performance on the par 3s. We’ve been running the MIS-HIT ever since 2002, the year The Moodie Report was founded, and it’s developed a DNA all of its own and a warmth to match the heat of the Divot’s winning streak.

This year even the traditionally sartorially challenged in the field were made to look fashionable with specially inscribed Paul & Shark polo shirts care of Catherine Bonelli and black MIS-HIT caps courtesy of Premier Portfolio (Left to right: Kevin Walsh, myself, Andrew Webster, Garry Maxwell and Catherine).

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The following day saw the rather bigger Heinemann/ Estée Lauder golf tournament, where all entries fees went to Hand in Hand for Haiti, one of travel retail’s great Corporate Social Responsibility projects of recent years. The acceptance speech by Olivier Bottrie, President of Travel Retailing Worldwide for Estée Lauder Companies – the driving force behind the cause – was as impassioned and moving as anything I have heard over 27 years in travel retail. Bravo to Olivier and brave to Lauder and Heinemann.

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Cannes is all about late night finishes, early morning starts, relentless meetings and a daunting flow of lunches, cocktail parties and dinners.

Every year at the end I say “Never again” and maybe this time I really mean it. But hey, as working conditions complaints go, this would surely be the lamest of all. In a couple of days I, like many others, will only remember all the many good things and great people. TFWA World Exhibition remains an outstanding showcase for our industry and an unrivalled opportunity to meet with peers from all around the planet. Nowhere is the innate internationalism of travel retail better expressed than at this, the greatest duty free show on earth.

Enough for now, it’s time to board.

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[Playing wine waiter with Henri Brunel, Duty Free & Travel Retail Director at Baron Philippe de Rothschild. I think he liked my recommendation for Mouton Cadet.]

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[Though actually I’m more of a fan of Alsation whine]

Later…

I’ve woken 34,000 m roughly equidistant between Irkutsk (sorry Novosibrisk, I overslept) and Ulaanbaatar, onboard Korean Air 908 to Incheon International Airport. This is, of course, the world’s number one inflight retailer and one look at the magnificent 264-page Sky Shop inflight shopping magazine brochure (below) tells you why.

I met Senior Vice President Heather Cho in Cannes last week and she was in typically creative mood about finding ways to drive her already remarkable US$200 million business forward. As a retailer I admire Heather; as a Publisher I simply doff my hat – Sky Shop is a beautifully produced tri-lingual publication of style, content and class. Quite how Chanel can justify not being in there (because of a sweeping antipathy towards inflight retail) beggars belief.

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Much later…

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I’ve arrived at Holiday Inn Incheon Songdo after landing at the consistently wonderful Incheon International Airport (below). I put together my PowerPoint presentation for tomorrow at 4am last Wednesday in Cannes but there was no time to put any words to the pictures. I guess it’s a case of now or never. Another long night, this time in the Land of the Morning Calm, beckons.

Incheon sign arrivals

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Incheon sense of place

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