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Welcome to The Moodie Blog’s second-busiest interim bureau. Yes, I’m back at London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 en route to Hong Kong and, briefly, Vietnam.
My stupendously heavy carbon footprint has meant the comfortable retention of my British Airways Gold Card for another year so I’m taking a quiet glass of Champagne (well it hasn’t said anything to me so far at least) in the Concorde Room before the long flight east.
I love long-haul flights; as an increasingly chronic insomniac I find great solace in the fact that I sleep so well on aeroplanes. A glass of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, a good red to follow, a bit of blogging and about half a movie works a treat. Inevitably I’ll wake somewhere over Novosibirsk in Siberia, or Dushan in China, complete my blog, catch a bit more of the movie, doze off and then wake just before landing. I believe I may be the globally pre-eminent expert on the first two-thirds of the world’s most popular movies (by the way, did Rocky win the fight? In any of the Rocky films from 1 to 44? And I bet Russell Crowe survived in Gladiator, right?).
T5 is unusually peaceful tonight. So is the Concorde Room. The only sound I can hear is the gentle frisson of my Champagne bubbles (Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle as you ask) and the gentle chatter of two women behind me over what looks like a Bloody Mary (with a dash of Worcester, of course, though a journalist should never reveal his sauce) and a dry Martini. Peace. Like me they’re enjoying a quiet moment before they fly across the world. Heathrow at dusk has a strange beauty. Outside the lights are brightening as the night gets ready to draw in. Soon I shall be flying into that night.
Heathrow, as I have said many times before, is a great airport terminal. I don’t know why the Brits don’t embrace it and champion it more, as say the patriotic Koreans or Singaporeans do of Incheon and Changi airports. This year marks 70 years of Heathrow’s existence and the airport is celebrating the millions upon millions of journeys its passengers have taken over that period in an appropriate and nice way. It’s asked travellers to write in with their Heathrow stories, perhaps relating somewhere special, unusual or poignant they were going to, or particular experiences they’ve had along the way. As I have flown out of here on average around 40 times a year since I created our company, I guess I should get my submissions in.
But I doubt I would write about my destinations. I would write about Heathrow itself, the people whom I’ve met, the emotions I have seen. Richard Curtis, the scriptwriter for Love Actually, the 2003 blockbuster bittersweet comedy, put it beautifully when he showed scenes from Heathrow to open the film. A voiceover from Hugh Grant (cast, improbably, as the British Prime Minister) said: “Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere.
“Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”
It is. Though in today’s deeply troubled world, sometimes it seems hard to find.
I see Heathrow’s arrivals and departures gates with equal frequency. Everywhere I go, there’s a story. And tonight was no different…
I love these machines and their little smiley-to-angry faces. My younger kids have taught me the finer points of PokémonGo during their term break (yes I have downloaded the app) and I was very excited when I thought I had spotted Articuno on the security assessment machine but apparently it was just a very happy green man. When I launch PokémontoGoTravelRetail, I shall call this one Martian. And who’s that one on the right? You cannot tell me that’s not Grimer!
And now to some great things about Heathrow T5.
Great advertising. Wow. What positioning. What impact. Who would have thought airport advertising could make you stop in your tracks (well it would if the escalator wasn’t moving)?
I couldn’t get a good shot in here because of well-founded fears of being arrested for taking pictures in the security area but even this hurried photo, with its tagline ’70 years and we’re still hearing new stories’, underlines the allure of the ’70 Years of Heathrow’ campaign (below).
Great merchandising (pity about that annoying carrier bag crammed with rubbish). Lancôme just about always gets it right. Consistent. Classy. Good words for our industry to be obsessive about.
Great communication. This is Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food, runner-up in our recent Airport FAB Awards (to Areas’ I love Paris at Charles de Gaulle). It’s a poor photo but I just wanted to catch the tagline ‘It’s all about the journey’. In others words enjoy the journey as much as the destination. Excellent restaurants such as this help. You’ll also see a sign declaring ‘Kids eat Free’, a brilliant Heathrow campaign to get more families dining – apparently with stunning success.
Not so great confectionery. Ok I know that there’s a danger that airport stores can be too sophisticated and upscale but while easy to shop the confectionery area at World Duty Free is not very interesting to shop. What you’re seeing here is formulaic retailing. As a consumer I’d just like to see a little more exuberance and fun in this category.
And now…. in anticipation of my great airport shop window competition, which I plan to launch in coming weeks, I thought I would start with a trial run at Heathrow Terminal 5 where there are some lovely examples.
Understated elegance, beautifully simple from the Kering-owned Italian luxury fashion house. On my 20-point scale this is a 16.
I rushed the picture as I wanted to capture both the Asian woman coming out of the shop and the two pilots strolling down the concourse. So you’ll have to take my word for the lovely, bright, enticing double front window display from Burberry. Another 16.
Again sorry about the picture quality but I love the delicacy of these elegantly inset window boxes that simply ooze the lustrous world of Cartier, surely one of the most consistently curated brands in travel retail. 17.
Fortnum & Mason pride themselves on their window displays, consistently among the best in the business and I’m talking worldwide. There’s a lot going on in this one, but arguably too much. It just perhaps lacks the emotional punch and joie de vivre I so often see with the great London food and gifts retailer. Still very nice though. 15.
Tidy but bland. And the resurgent Kering-owned brand is anything but bland. 14.
Crisp British chic leads you into one of my favourite airport stores, Paul Smith. I confess I did like the old store design better (there was more of a sense of discovery) but it’s still really good. The window display is par for the course though, nothing better. 14.
I like the contrast between the reality of a hard-working, low-paid cleaning lady and the swanky, Parisian chic image of the shop window. What would Coco Chanel say? In any case it’s a great window display. 18
Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes… that display makes we want to charge into the Hermès boutique and buy everything on offer. Look at the colour, the vibrancy, the fun, the quirkiness. I’d score it higher except I have seen even better from the great French house. Nonetheless a potentially table-topping 18.5
Just when you thought Hermès had it all wrapped up like a silk scarve, along comes the British luxury stationery to leathergoods brand Smythson. If you don’t love that gorgeous biplane made up from Smythson products you simply don’t love travel. Superb. And because it’s so superbly tailored to the travel retail environment, it scores a league table winning 19.