Scents and sensibility at sea

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

Just 357 days left in the year. Where did all the time go?

We might be just eight days into 2018 but already the travel retail sector is buzzing with newness, big promotional campaigns and imminent store openings.

None of those openings come any bigger than Incheon International Airport’s new Terminal 2 and, judging by the mock-up photos sent to us by two of the main retailers, the travelling consumer is in for a treat. Korean travel retail may have undergone a profitability crisis due to the THAAD controversy in 2017 but that doesn’t seem to have held the T2 retailers back from rolling out some ambitious and expensive innovations for their stores, which open when the terminal is inaugurated on 18 January.

Lotte Duty Free, for example is bringing the boutique approach normally associated with beauty, luxury, fashion and accessories to spirits and tobacco. Its flagship store features six brands presented in boutique style – Ballantine’s, Johnnie Walker, Royal Salute and Hennessy from the liquor category, plus two from tobacco.

The flagship comprises Ballantine’s, Johnnie Walker, Royal Salute and Hennessy from the liquor category, plus Korean tobacco house KT&G’s Lil  (an electronic cigarette brand) and IQOS (the Philip Morris International e-cigarette brand) for tobacco. The boutique format for liquor & tobacco is a first for Korean duty free.

In what is surely a first for global travel retail (at least for many decades), Lotte will even have an in-store ‘smoking zone’ – albeit, of course, for e-cigarettes. A brilliant notion.

Add in a tasting bar for spirits; an event/sampling zone for confectionery called Sweets; a stellar line-up of exclusives (including US$27,700 Hennessy Édition Particulière) and limited editions; and what’s claimed to be the world’s biggest airport retail media wall (30.7m-wide, 2.6m-high) and you have plenty that will wow the travelling consumer. Which is exactly what the Korean travel retail industry needs to be doing right now. If you’re going to amortize heavy upfront investment over a contract term, creating consumer excitement and rapport as you set off seems a good place to start. This is simply no time to loll around.

Shinsegae Duty Free has also previewed some of what is to come in its fashion & accessories offer. Chanel is set to make a stunning Incheon comeback (it pulled out of T1 several years ago due to discontent with the amount of space given to rival Louis Vuitton) and both its and Gucci’s boutiques will be positioned alongside a spectacular 17.1m-wide, 13.4m-high façade.

A 300sq m Character Zone will feature a host of the cartoon characters that have proved such a smash hit in South Korea and much of East Asia in recent years, including Line Friends, Kakao Friends and Pororo.

Character forming: Shinsegae Duty Free brings some of South Korea’s favourite creations to life
The Moodie Davitt Report has its own cartoon character, especially created for travel retail. Expect to hear more about Judy Free in coming months.

The other story that really grabbed my attention in the first days of the new year came from the cruiseline retail sector. Dream Cruises has described its shopping offer onboard the fleet’s newest ship World Dream as “luxury and duty free retail redefined”, featuring some of the most exclusive stores onboard any cruise ship in the world. These include Asia’s first onboard Tiffany & Co. shop and a global marine debut for a Dior jewellery and watches boutique. Guests can also enjoy the Tiffany & Co. High Tea Set, the US jeweller’s first high tea at sea.

Making waves at sea onboard World Dream

Tea for two at Tiffany

But the innovation I most like is called Scents & Spirits, an ‘experience wall’ designed to fuse the worlds of fragrances and ‘luxury libations’. Based on the concept of scent pairings, a premium selection of fragrances and liquors has been shortlisted to create nine distinctive blends of scents. Guests can choose any bottle of fragrance or liquor from the wall, which triggers the interactive screen to display more information on that particular product, namely its fragrance or tasting notes, as well as recommendations on the best pairing option.

Liquor brands featured on the product wall will include Grey Goose, Hennessy, Jack Daniels, Johnnie Walker and The Macallan, paired with fragrances by Bvlgari, Chanel, Dior and Yves Saint Laurent.

Some intriguing combinations there. Johnnie Walker Black Label and Bvlgari Black anyone? Dior’s Ambre Nuit with a lovely amber liquid such as The Macallan sounds like a winner to me. A French combo of Hennessy and YSL Mon Paris?

What very clever person, as opposed to the industry’s many wiseacres who constantly claim the sky is falling (it never did and it never will) came up with this great idea? It’s the kind of innovation that gets passengers talking, trying – and very probably buying.

Postscript: In the travel retail equivalent of Glasnost, I’m determined to maintain an open discussion on industry issues and parlance throughout 2018. As mentioned in my last Blog, I bought a desk calendar called ‘365 new words a year’ (from the editors of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary) for Xmas (I think the ugly industry term is ‘self-gifting’). And true to my pledge, I am attempting to weave in each new word to The Moodie Blog during the year. That is not quite as easy as it sounds.  For a start, many of them aren’t ‘new’ words at all and some are about as easy to weave into a sentence as it would be to disguise Donald Trump at the Annual General Meeting of the Mime Artists Society.

Today’s Blog contains five nominated words. Can you spot them? Several highly literate readers spotted two of the three in my first Blog of the year – ‘algid’ and the splendid mouthful that is ‘mithridate’. But ‘apoplexy’ (a word I use regularly; in fact it often describes my state) was not the third. Sorry to be mundane but it was ‘gazette’. Boring, I know.

Into the travel retail Lexicon bin (Episode 2):

Iconic: One of the most overused and abused words in the English language. To my horror, I discovered that it appears in 1,532 stories on The Moodie Davitt Some of them no doubt mine. Oh dear. Let’s remind ourselves that  iconic denotes a person or thing regarded widely as a representative symbol or as worthy of veneration (defined as ‘reverence, respect, worship, adoration, homage, exaltation, adulation, glorification’).

As in ‘John Lennon gained iconic status following his death’.

Most clutch bags, perfume bottles, chocolate wrappers, local sandwich favourites and Scotch whisky distilleries don’t make the iconic bar. Sorry. Maybe don’t bin but moderate.

Hand-selected: As opposed to what? Plucked off a conveyor belt by a robot?

Concessionaires: Ah, this is a difficult one. I use it myself a lot, and so does the industry. But if you had one word to sum up the excellence and skillset of, say, DFS, Lotte Duty Free or Heinemann, would you choose this one? I thought not. They’re retailers (not ‘operators’ – see my last Blog,  would you call a pianist a keyboard operator or a dentist a drill handler?) right?

Technically, at least, it’s a correct term (concessionaire: ‘the holder of a concession or grant, especially for the use of land or commercial premises or for trading rights’) but it sure ain’t a pretty one. I think I feel a spell of retrospective self-editing coming on.


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