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Credit where credit’s due. Autogrill Lanka has withdrawn the controversial flyer (as in pamphlet, not passenger) at Colombo Bandaranaike Airport that sparked my recent Blog, A questionable question of authenticity.
Readers will remember that I criticised the flyer (given out at the retailer’s Arrivals duty free store), which was headlined ‘Are you buying a genuine product? – Yes that’s our guarantee’.
It noted: “When you purchase at Autogrill Lanka Limited – Duty Free – your products will be genuine, meeting the highest international standards required for all imported products.”
The leaflet went on to describe how consumers can check for authenticity and quality – hologram stickers on spirits bottles, ‘taste the difference of genuine product’ on confectionery, ‘our perfume range is sourced from leading French perfume houses and airfreighted to ensure freshness’.
I questioned the need to emphasise such virtues which are surely a given in any international duty free store and asked whether it was an unsubtle dig at the company’s new competitor Flemingo Duty Free, adding “The company would be far better off championing its own very real virtues – a good product range, keenly priced and neatly merchandised – than raising the spectre of counterfeit or out of condition product. Ultimately that approach simply raises consumer doubts about the channel. It’s certainly not helpful to the reputation of the duty free industry.”
I took some heat for that Blog but I remain convinced that the flyer was ill-advised. And anyway, as I say, it was withdrawn soon after I posted my entry, so someone must have agreed.
A happy ever after ending? Not quite. Similar in-store signage (above) remains and Autogrill is still running a related campaign in local print media (below), such as the Sri Lanka Airways inflight magazine ‘Serendib’, that highlights the use of holograms and raises the possibility of non-genuine products being available elsewhere.
This is a first, I believe, in this business. Is it wise? I’ll let you make up your own minds. If it is a reference to counterfeit product on the local market (and there’s certainly plenty of that in Asia), maybe there’s some justification. If it’s an attempt to get a competitive edge in a tough two-day duty free contest, as many locals including Flemingo think, then I’m not so sure.
[Note: We’ll profile both Colombo retailers in the May issue of The Moodie Report Print Edition. As revealed by The Moodie Report, Autogrill Lanka is refurbishing its two shops at Colombo Bandaranaike Airport (see mock-up below) with a vibrant new design. Now that’s the way to react to competition.]