TRP Travel Retail Style Index: October 2020

Cartier Maillon de Cartier watch 2020

Welcome to a new travel retail column for DRG by Alison Farrington aka The Retail Planner (TRP)

As global travel picks up again, we look at the business and shopping trends of the travel retail world. In particular, the beauty, fashion, accessories, and watches & jewellery categories, dipping into the product exclusives and digital strategies that often launch in Asia and give the rest of the world an idea of innovations coming soon.

WHAT’S THE FUTURE FOR DUTY FREE SHOPPING? A major story this month, the entire travel retail industry is reeling from the latest government news that duty free is set to be abolished in the UK for everything bar alcohol and cigarettes from 1 Jan 2020.

This means that not only will international shoppers from China, the Middle East etc no longer be able to claim their VAT refunds on luxury shopping when they leave the K (Harrods is not happy), the new ruling also applies to duty free categories such as perfume & cosmetics, handbags and sunglasses.

Frankly, I am confused and dismayed by the surprising news. A new report from the UK Travel Retail Forum indicates job losses in this sector will be 160,000 and the UK tourism industry looks set to lose over £8bn in tourist spending incomes. It doesn’t make much sense to me, especially at a time when airports and travel-related businesses need as much income as possible due to significantly reduced international passengers.

TRP Takeaway: But what does it mean for beauty shopping at the airport? On closer inspection the new ruling still allows VAT refunds and duty-free prices if the product is shipped to the customer’s home address. Is this an opportunity for retailers to absorb shipping costs and still allow passengers at airports to pick up a ‘bargain’? For higher ticket items I think this would be a compelling reason to still shop in duty free. If Net-a-Porter can do free global shipping (over £200), why can’t Heathrow Airport’s World Duty Free? To be continued…

It’s fair to say a vast chunk of consumers now prefer to shop online for their perfume and cosmetics. This has obviously become accelerated due to Covid. And so instead of interacting at a beauty counter IRL, beauty brands are taking that customer relationship online.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have joined online communities for Zoom video ‘events’ for two major brand launches – Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair (the relaunch) and Frédéric Malle’s 20th anniversary ‘Perfume Summit’.

For its latest molecule-enhanced version of the bestselling Advanced Night Repair serum – Synchronised Multi-Recovery Complex*, Estee Lauder held a series of global virtual webinars. Designed for what I’m calling ‘Skinfluencers’, the click-through pop-ups included interactive skin diagnosis, updates from lab technicians and face yoga sessions. The European session I attended was themed as a Constellation party and featured its own DJ and best-dressed screen time, which saw most attendees noting the ‘something gold’ outfit memo!

Meanwhile, hearing pearls of wisdom from some of the greatest fragrance noses of our time was too good an opportunity to pass up. So, I logged on the Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle Perfume Summit last week to hear from the maverick collaborator, Frédéric Malle himself and his storied cohorts as they discussed 20 years of ideas and a shared unconventional approach that Malle likens to a publisher working with authors to create iconic artisanal fragrances.

The convivial session included insights from Dominique Ropion (author of Carnal Flower and Portrait of a Lady*, below), Jean-Claude Ellena (Cologne Bigarade), Maurice Roucel (Musc Ravageur) and Pierre Bourdon (French Lover), who agreed with Malle that it takes a shared vision to create a lingering scent that has the power of emotion.

For its year-long 20th anniversary campaign, limited edition Frédéric Malle travel sets (featuring its most iconic fragrances) are available in department stores including Selfridges* and Harrods*, while special edition collector sets commemorate the brand’s 20th anniversary in global travel retail locations.

TRP Takeaway: Zoom influencer campaign launches are a welcome addition to my digital diary; they’re a democratic way to amplify new product launches among online communities. In our world of virtual get-togethers, industry icons and brand ambassadors alike have an opportunity to experiment with new content platforms and online symposiums can find a new audience.

Net-A-Porter and Mr Porter have partnered with organisers of the Watches & Wonders (W&W) luxury watchmakers showcase that has taken its usually industry-only event on tour to China for the first time.

The exhibition launched last week in partnership with the CDF Sanya International Duty-Free Shopping Complex in Hainan, China and is open to consumers both digitally via Net-a-Porter* and Mr Porter*, as well as via workshop sessions from 11 participating watch brands at the Chinese resort island shopping destination.

Meanwhile, the physical version of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH) luxury watch-makers networking event that usually happens in April in Geneva, is on a two-month China tour, having first stopped in the West Bund Art Centre, Shanghai in September. The VIP shopping event has just opened at the CDF Mall in Sanya and runs through to 31 October. Cartier is one of a number of Richemont-owned watch brands taking part in the event. Look out for the redesigned Cartier Privé Tank Asymétrique watch (below) and the Maillon de Cartier bracelet watch (top).

Cartier Privé Tank Asymétrique watch

TRP Takeaway: If consumers can’t travel to luxury shopping destinations, the stores will travel to them. Luxury brands are looking to Sanya, Hainan to reach affluent Chinese consumers as the shopping destination leads the way for Asia’s luxury market resurgence.

This post is contributed by DRG retail editor, ALISON FARRINGTON, who is a freelance travel retail industry journalist. Read her previous posts on Disneyrollergirl here.


WORDS: Disneyrollergirl / Alison Farrington
IMAGES: Cartier, Frédéric Malle, Cartier
NOTE: Most images are digitally enhanced. Some posts use affiliate links* and PR samples. Please read my privacy and cookies policy here

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