TRP Travel Retail Style Index: January 2021

Helena Rubinstein gold leaf hand massage CDFG Sanya

Welcome to the latest travel retail column for DRG by Alison Farrington aka The Retail Planner (TRP).

As the first update of the New Year, we kick off with a brief look at the new laws for duty free here in the UK, as well as some positive retail news from China.

This month, there will undoubtedly be much Brexsplaining going on as travellers come to terms with the cancellation of tax-free shopping refunds for luxury fashion purchases in the UK. As of 1 January, the government has abolished the VAT Refund Scheme for non-EU travellers in the UK, meaning that shoppers from overseas can no longer claim their tax back on luxury purchases when they return home, unless the goods are shipped separately from the traveller (cost prohibitive). Meanwhile, the good news is that duty-free shopping is back for travel between the UK and EU (for alchohol and tobacco only), which means a Brexit bonanza for fans of the booze cruise. So as and when travel is permitted again, it’s worth stocking up on the usually duty-free exclusive 1L size bottles of Stoli Gold vodka or Tanqueray 10 gin, not to mention my favourite, Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé.

TRP Takeaway: The travel retail industry is still furious about the decision to remove tax-free shopping refunds, which analyst, Global Blue has calculated, will end up costing the economy £6bn a year in lost tourist spending.

On the fragrance front, a new year means fresh scents. In the travel retail world, new season brand launches to watch for include: Scarlet Poppy Cologne Intense* from Jo Malone London, an opulent and sweet perfume that combines distinctive poppy blooms with barley and tonka bean notes and a burst of sweet fig; as well as a new character fragrance, the Inimitable William Penhaligon*, from the Penhaligon’s Portrait collection.

Penhaligon’s has revealed a new podium retail concept in partnership with Qatar Duty Free at Hamad Airport. The launch in December was to showcase the retailer’s exclusive new fragrance for the Inimitable William Penhaligon, joining other Portrait collection favourites, The Uncompromising Sohan* and Lord George*. Travellers could download and use an augmented reality app to discover the story behind the new character fragrance as well as the rest of the Portrait collection. For those wishing to make a purchase, they can have a name or message engraved onto the bottle.

TRP Takeaway: The Penhaligon’s AR experience brings this characterful fragrance story to life with a digital experiential element that plays to the brand’s DNA. This style of in-store AR works well for brands with rich heritage storytelling and the Penhaligon’s illustration creative features a range of whimsical personalities that Middle East consumers should find intriguing for their aristocratic tales.

In China, the resort island of Hainan is seeing an influx of global retailers opening up shops to cater for the growing duty-free destination. There’s a real focus on digital innovation for the ‘revenge spending’ Chinese tourists who are flocking here.

One notable example is Helena Rubinstein, who has launched a VIP spa experience that translates from online to offline. I am all in for the prospect of a 24K pure gold leaf hand massage, if the brand’s luxury villa ‘travel beauty experience’ ever touches down in Europe. The VIP customer event was a partnership with China Duty Free Group and hosted from 21-24 December for 100 guests at the Sanya Edition boutique hotel. The exclusive event was to launch the brand’s first online-to-offline skincare analysis experience, which it said represents the ‘future of travel beauty’.

The shopping-leisure spa event was personalised to each guest, from the afternoon tea and mocktails to the portrait photoshoot and gold leaf hand massage (above) featuring the brand’s signature Cellglow skincare range. The main event – an in-depth skin analysis using the brand’s in-house biometrics technology – was livestreamed by Chinese beauty influencers, Teacher Xu and Kakakaoo.The pair showcased how to use hero products Powercell Serum* and Cellglow concentrate* and reached over 25 million viewers on WeChat and the China Duty Free Group online shopping channel.

TRP Takeaway: All eyes are on Hainan, arguably the only growth spot for travel retail as the rest of the world continues to suffer prolonged travel restrictions due to the pandemic. The focus on investment in duty free retail here is staggering. With beauty brands in particular raising the bar for phygital retail experiences tailored to this hotspot, expectations for any kind of global roll out are high.

With Chinese New Year looming at the end of the month, I’m looking forward to an influx of limited edition travel retail exclusives that I can potentially add to my online basket if not shop in person at an airport. An early wishlist item is the Gucci Rouge à Lèvres lipstick trio – made up of the 25 Goldie Red*, 505 Janet Rust* and 513 Emmy Red* lipsticks in special edition gold and red packaging for the holiday period.

TRP Takeaway: Gucci has seamlessly extended its Holiday campaign theme of an old-fashioned Punch & Judy theatre set for this Chinese New Year promotion with its sumptuous gold and red colours centre stage. And I love it.

PLUS… ICYMI, some travel news for future trip-planning: A preview of the new Belmond Royal Scotsman, features a first of its kind ‘spa on rails’ carriage courtesy of Bamford Haybarn Spa. Vogue Business advises to watch for emerging Gen Z-friendly luxury brand partnerships as it predicts 2021 to be a bumper year for M&A activity. Jing Daily unpacks why ‘Wellth’ is a luxury consumer mindset in China. Skyscanners’ latest travel trends report reveals surf destinations and WFP (Working from Paradise) are 2021’s top destination drivers.

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
IMAGE: Helena Rubinstein
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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