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I’m back in a deeply troubled Hong Kong at the start of a two-week journey also embracing Taipei, Penghu County, Beijing and Busan.
Things have deteriorated here sharply since my last visit a few weeks ago with police and protesters battling long into Tuesday night at the China University of Hong Kong. Police have warned that Hong Kong is on “the brink of total collapse” following escalating violence in recent days. Some 128 people were injured Monday in clashes; a 21 year-old man was shot by police and a 57 year-old man was set on fire by protesters and remains in a critical condition.
Where things go next is anyone’s guess. The protests, now into their sixth month, have devastated tourism and all sub-sectors such as retail. With positions on either side hardening, it is a desperately sad situation.
I flew from London with Cathay Pacific, stopping as always to peruse Heathrow’s expansive retail and food & beverage offer, this time at Terminal 3. I had my first-ever Baileys Irish Cream out of an ice-cream cone – a simple but effective ‘Create your own Baileys treat’ promotion that was being conducted in the World Duty Free spirits & wine store. I tried the Vanilla Cinnamon flavour and very nice it was too.
World Duty Free’s beauty department is expansive in both size and range. But I can’t help thinking that all those rather confident alpha male sales assistants prowling either side of the walk-through store are more daunting than they are engaging in terms of getting male customers at least to step into the shopping zone.
It’s a model that has no doubt served its purpose for many years but there is an air of intimidation, or at least implied pressure, that non-industry travellers have commented to me about in the past and I get their point. I wonder what the disrupter model to that approach looks like? Any ideas? Personally I prefer the quiet understatement of World of Whiskies, where I can simply wander in and peruse the wares and ask for help if I need it.
I’ve got a busy few days ahead with two major store inaugurations and some key business meetings. With high-profile activations now such an integral part of the travel retail business, we endeavour to see as many of them first-hand as we can. That means my travel agenda, like those of my editorial colleagues, is crammed until year-end and already filling up for the first quarter of 2020. I can only hope that any of those trips back here to Hong Kong will be amid better times.
PICTURE GALLERY – PROMOTIONAL ACTIVITY AT WORLD DUTY FREE, HEATHROW AIRPORT T3