Travel Retail Consortium conjures up Animal Magic

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There are plenty of party animals in travel retail and, I daresay, the occasional spot of monkey business, so the choice of venue for the Travel Retail Consortium’s (TRC) annual Business Lunch last week – London Zoo – was nothing short of inspired.

London Zoo was an inspired venue for the TRC 2014 Business Lunch

As usual, the day proved to be a splendid affair, with TRC members joined by selected retailers and media guests, all of whom enjoyed a slap-up lunch and some excellent networking opportunities.

The day began with bubbles in front of the wallaby enclosure

The event – blessed by glorious sunshine – began with an al fresco Taittinger Champagne reception in front of the wallaby enclosure (not your average Friday, eh?) before moving into the Mappin Pavilion for the main event. A delicious meal was complemented by some rather fine vintages – Accolade Wines’ Flagstone Music Room Cabernet Sauvignon proved especially popular, and will be a regular feature from now on chez Mann (Rupert Firbank, you should be in sales. Oh, wait).

The entire event was imbued with an innovative animal theme

This year’s guest speaker was comedian, writer, musician and philanthropist Tony Hawks – a favourite author of my long suffering spouse, who can quote huge chunks of Round Ireland With A Fridge and was almost inspired to take up the game after reading Playing The Moldovans At Tennis.

The party table gets ready to rock…

Hawks began by explaining that he was not, in fact, the grandmaster of skateboarding Tony Hawk (though he does endeavour to respond to all skateboarding queries in his own inimitable style, despite a complete dearth of knowledge on the subject). The theme of his speech was “betting” – a central tenet of his best-selling books (reader note: bet high if Hawks ever asks you to guess how many times he can bounce a golf ball on a club).

The golf club interlude was followed swiftly by a skit with a guitar (Hawks reached number four in the UK in 1988 with Stutter Rap and number one in Australia). His speech – and singing – was peppered with killer one-liners, and was entertaining indeed.

…fuelled by a bottle or three of this rather splendid beverage

But there is a serious side to Hawks and his work. After visiting Moldova he came up with the idea of starting a care centre for needy children in Chisinau, donating half the royalties from his book into a fund for the project.

This altruism dovetails perfectly with the TRC’s commitment to raising funds for charity. Accordingly, the London Zoo lunch incorporated a charity raffle which raised well over £700 on the day. That sum will be added to other monies raised by TRC throughout the year, and presented to nominated charity The Beacon Centre in Guildford, which provides much-needed care and services (including palliative care), for people diagnosed with life-changing, progressive illnesses.

In addition, in keeping with the lunch’s animal theme, TRC Chairman Richard Thorpe announced that an additional donation would be made to the Manchester Dogs’ Home, which was set ablaze last week in a suspected arson attack that killed more than 60 animals.

Guest speaker Tony Hawks (centre) flanked by TRC Chairman Richard Thorpe and The Moodie Report’s Rebecca Mann

Huge thanks to Richard and indeed the entire TRC for their excellent hospitality, and congratulations on a memorable lunch imbued with a generous touch of animal magic.