Mastering the perfect serve with Aperol Spritz

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I’m at 38,000 feet above the Banda Sea, Indonesia on CX (Cathay Pacific) 104, four hours and a few minutes out of Hong Kong after a whistlestop trip down to Melbourne, Australia.

I’m quite pleased it is only four hours for the last 90 minutes or so have been among the bumpiest I have witnessed since first watching Airplane!, the 1980 film comedy directed by David and Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams, starring the inimitable Leslie Nielsen.

Fortunately ex-fighter pilot Ted Striker (Robert Hays) is not at the controls and despite the turbulence causing a ffffffffffffew typos as I writtttttttttte, it looks as though we’ll be backccccccccccck in Hong Kong safe and sound. Provided, that is, there’s no equivalent at Hong Kong International Airport of tower supervisor Steve McCroskey (Lloyd Bridges in his finest hour) to activate an inflatable autopilot called Otto. Surely that won’t happen? Of course it won’t but stop calling me Shirley!

Stewardess Elaine (speaking on the PA): “There is no reason to become alarmed, and we hope you enjoy the rest of your flight…. And by the way – is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?”

Actually as I type, things have calmed down a lot so as it’s nearly 9pm in Melbourne I may ask for a glass of chilled white wine – a nice choice between a Framingham Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand or a Jean-Marc Brocard Petit Chablis from Burgundy, France. Choices eh? What can a man do?

Then again, after perusing the list, maybe I should order a Campari and soda in honour of the Italian group’s most brilliant – in every sense – initiative that brought me to Melbourne over the past couple of days.

I’m talking about the pioneering Aperol experiential shop-in-shop in global travel retail, located in a prime position at Lotte Duty Free’s expansive Melbourne Airport walk-through store. The initiative honours Aperol’s renewed long-term partnership with the Australian Open, a Grand Slam tennis event which runs from 14 to 28 January.

I see a lot of activations, ranging from the bland to the vivid, and this one I assure you registers very high on the travel retail equivalent of the Richter scale.

Everything is right here. The positioning (directly at the end of the walk-through so you can see the promotion from distance before turning left into the luxury avenue); the colour (as vivid as a Sicilian orange grove); the scale (an impressive 55sq m); the combination of digital and human engagement; and of course the product proposition itself (remember this simple mantra for the perfect Aperol Spritz serve, ‘3 – 2 – 1’, i.e. 3 parts Prosecco, 2 parts Aperol, 1 part soda water. Do NOT stir. And most certainly do not shake).

I’ll let the pictures tell the story. A warning, however. Put on your sunglasses first.

Expert (sampling) forehands and backhands on display in this celebratory shot featuring (left to right) Melbourne Airport Chief of Ground Transport, Property & Retail Jai McDermott; Melbourne Airport Head of Retail & Asset Management Aaron Gupta; Campari Group Regional Director APAC Global Travel Retail Mark Jordan; The Moodie Davitt Report Founder & Chairman Martin Moodie; and Lotte Duty Free Oceania Chief Executive Officer Stephen Timms

I was trying to look inconspicuous as I flew out of Melbourne Airport today but I guess the fact that I was taking a zillion photos on my iPhone made that impossible. That and the fact I had met many of the Lotte Duty Free the day before – and on my last visit in November 2017 when then-incumbent Dufry was celebrating the opening of its second ‘New Generation’s store.

Fault: This clearly wasn’t the perfect serve but the Aperol Spritz curated with great flair by the wonderful Domonique (yes, correct spelling) most certainly was

In fact it inspired me to play this lovely passing shot straight out of the Carlos Alcaraz handbook {Note: No passengers were harmed in the making of this photograph}
What a shot. No, I’m talking photography not tennis. For the superb Jo Traikos Promotions team the baseline is always exellence, the result consistently a clean winner. I am pictured here with the agency’s effervescent Australia/New Zealand Sales Account and Customer Relationship Manager Adrien Pateras and Sales and Operations Manager Kate Baxter.
(Left) The perfect drop shot from Domonique; (Right) Kate and Adrien with Jo Traikos, Founder of the company that bears her name, Jo Traikos Promotions. Jo has been in the business for 25 years, first with The Nuance Group and then Dufry (as Promotions Manager) before founding her own brilliantly successful company ten years ago.

What a marvellous team they are too. Just as in arrivals two days earlier, the Lotte Duty Free team (thank you Alison, Eva and Antonina) had each reminded me of my full inbound allowance (I only bought one bottle but made up for it on the way out), and offered me a shopping basket as soon as I entered the store, the crew were engaging, helpful and knowledgeable. Can you ask for more?

For overseas passengers attending the Australian Open the experience starts with this Aperol Spritz activation in the Lotte Duty Free arrivals store
Once spotted by Mousab and Tom from Lotte Duty Free I was never going to get out of the store without sampling some of the many promotions on offer in a fantastically engaging environment
There’s plenty of local flavour in every sense at Lotte Duty Free. Here Tom displays the Year of the Dragon edition of popular Tasmanian single malt whisky Lark.
Tom helped guide me to two excellent Aussie wine purchases, the 2016 Taylors Masterstroke Cabernet Shiraz and a cool climate Bay of Fires Chardonnay 2022 from Tasmania

Where to start? It’s been an extraordinary couple of days so how about a dram of the exquisite (and travel-exclusive) new Johnnie Walker Scotch Blue Label Xordinaire, served up with a smile by Anh in a dramatically cinematic setting. Oh go on then, just the one.

Ultra-premium spirits sell well here. Lotte Duty Free got an allocation of just five bottles of the ultra-premium Talisker Glacial Edge and Tom has already sold four of them…
… bolstered by a recent A$38,000 sale of this series of three ultra-premium expressions from The Macallan to a Chinese customer. The kind of purchase that does wonders for the average transaction value.
Amid all that orange there’s an equally vivid splash of yellow. It belongs to one of the hottest brands on the travel retail planet, L’Occitane Group-controlled Sol de Janeiro
Chinese baijiu company Luzhou Laojiao has also collaborated with The Australian Open (where it is the official baijiu partner with its hugely popular Guojiao 1573 ) and Lotte Duty Free. Note the high-impact digital advertising just outside the walk-through store with the activation immediately inside.

A big shout-out too to the team from Jo Traikos Promotions, the fabulous agency that as mentioned carries the name of its founder, the equally fabulous and eternally ebullient Jo Traikos (pictured below, sixth from right in near Aperol hues).

I swear there were more wines & spirits samplings per square metre going on today than I have previously seen (or tasted) in a duty free store and with great interaction also on the beauty side, it’s little wonder that penetration rates here are encouraging.

True Trinity+ spirit: Airport, retailer, brand and agency management and team celebrate a job well done
Cat, who served me moments later, attends first to the purchase of a Chinese customer. Guess what she is buying? Strange Nature gin from New Zealand (first two facings on the top shelf below), sponsor of our popular Image of the Day column.  “What made you choose Strange Nature?” I asked her. “I was buying it for a gift and I loved the bottle,” she replied. “The gin is excellent too,” I added. One happy customer and one travel retail Publisher with a possible future as a Brand Ambassador.

Days like these remind me of the joy of my job – I was fatigued as hell on arrival after a long flight and a non-stop schedule over recent weeks – and make me realise just how lucky and privileged I am in my choice, or destiny, of profession. ✈

What a pleasure to meet Anil Menon, International Retail & Sales Manager – APAC & ANZ for the outstanding Australian fragrance house Goldfield & Banks, who told me he has been an avid reader of The Moodie Davitt Report website for the past 20 years from his many years with DFS amd Chanel. Thank you Anil. You can read our interview from July 2023 with the brand’s remarkable founder, Dimitri Weber, here. Great too to see Lotte Duty Free’s commitment to Aussie brands throughout the store.
Visitors to the Australian Open can enjoy an aperitivo moment at the splendid Aperol Terrazza curated especially for the event
Purple turns orange. Purple is a brilliant agency at all times, typified by their contribution during the Aperol promotion, on which the team has worked very hard during recent weeks. I am pictured here with Purple’s Yun Jie (YJ) Goh and James Brown, both enjoying a well-deserved Aperol Spritz in the  Aperol Terrazza.
YJ Goh and Silvia Mattei, Senior Brand Manager Italian Icons, Campari Group Global Travel Retail, bask in the Melbourne sunshine and the Aperol glow