Why a kiss is still a kiss in travel retail

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

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Room with a view: It’s always easier to keep The Moodie Davitt machine humming during a busy trade show when you have an outlook like this

The Moodie Davitt Report Interim Singapore Bureau is closed and it’s good to be back on English soil after two terrific weeks in Asia, one in Hong Kong, the second at the TFWA show.

I’ve already reported some of my impressions from Hong Kong International Airport, where a vibrant retail scene is about to heat up considerably with a series of Grand Openings in coming weeks. More about those soon. On Friday I spent a pleasurable couple of hours wandering around Changi Airport Terminal 1’s multi-faceted shopping offer. While T1 lacks the duplex store-driven wow factor of T2 or T3, or the newness of T4, the anchor stores are still pretty impressive and there’s plenty of variety in the balance of the offer.

I also had the chance to visit (and experience) Shiseido’s The Ultimune Red Vibe Street animation, which enjoys a terminal positioning as brilliant as the brand’s dazzling signature colour (my colleague Helen Pawson attended the launch of this project on the eve of the show, you can read her report here).

TFWA Asia Pacific appeared to be a considerable success. Certainly the statistics looked good, with a record 3,194 visitors attending the show, up +3% on 2017. Retailer numbers, so key to exhibitors, were also in the black, up +3% year-on-year. But, as always, the numbers only tell part of the story. The telling difference from the Orlando show a few weeks earlier was the overwhelmingly positive mood about business prospects in this vast region (or collection of regions).

The conference had its moments, notably an impressively thoughtful presentation from Ignace van Doorselaere, CEO of premium Belgian chocolatier Neuhaus. I’ve heard a few brand CEO presentations down the years at the Singapore show and other industry conferences and too often they lapse into thinly-veiled advertorials. Van Doorselaere (pictured below) certainly made plenty of references to Neuhaus but he did it with insight and panache, particularly with his fascinating observations about the need to balance EBITDA (the company’s) with experience (the customer’s).

“Nothing exists if it has not been well implemented to the consumer. The pitch never lies,” he said memorably. “We live in a world of ‘moments’ that make a difference. How can we apply this idea to 50 minutes spent in an airport?”

His presentation was themed, ‘A kiss is still a kiss, how to marry cash and unforgettable moments.’ I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard travel retail’s ultimate challenge better articulated.

With the Chinese business (both within and outside the PRC) surging again and (whisper it gently) the prospects of peace on the Korean Peninsula, you’d have to look pretty hard to find a serious negative in the region’s travel retail business right now. That doesn’t mean things are easy – they’re not and conversion of passengers to shoppers remains a critical priority for all industry stakeholders – but considering the carnage that e-commerce has brought to High Street retailing in much of the world, travel retail is holding up a whole lot better than the prophets of doom have and continue to forecast.

As an industry stakeholder with skin in the game via my 16-year investment in The Moodie Davitt Report, I have never felt so confident in the future. If our industry can get it right, many unforgettable kisses lie ahead.

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