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Travel Retail Tales from TFWA Singapore 2019 – Part 2: Opportunities in TR

On day two of her trip to Singapore, Fiona Rayner reflects on the opening day presentations from TFWA Asia Pacific Conference, with a particular focus on the opportunity for the duty free & travel retail industry to explore the issues that are shaping the market’s biggest region by sales.

  • Monday, 13 May
  • Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Centre
  • TFWA Asia Pacific Conference

Day two of my trip to Singapore and I’ve successfully shaken off the jet lag – I feel the combination of early starts and late finishes has meant that my body has no idea what time of day it is and therefore I just sleep when I get a chance! What a fabulous evening at the TFWA Welcome Cocktails at Fort Canning; such an impressive venue, dripping in colonial splendour. It was lovely to meet some old acquaintances and make new friends in the beautiful garden terrace. I was reminded that whilst Conferences and Exhibitions are a great way to learn, share ideas and meet new contacts; it is also about meeting interesting and important people from across the Travel Retail industry in a relaxed environment. I think it’s fair to say that a great night was had by all.

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After an early start, I was on my way to the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) Expo and Convention Centre, a short shuttle ride from my hotel. As we approached MBS I realised just how impressive it was and felt a sudden wave of excitement as I was reminded that this would be my ‘office’ for the next four days. The first day of TFWA Singapore is historically a conference and this year it took a slightly different format, meaning that delegates were able to attend three plenary sessions that explored different themes through the day.

First on the agenda was Alain Maingreaud, President of TFWA. In his first address to the TFWA Asia Pacific Conference, Alain took delegates through the latest available regional and global sales data along with his personal perspective on things. Alain was able to demonstrate the evolution of Duty Free (DF) & Tax Free (TF) sales since 2016 – it’s incredible to see how fast the industry has grown in just three years…

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We learned how the Asia Pacific market had seen growth of over 14% and had delivered over $35 billion. All of a sudden, I felt so lucky and fortunate to be here – being able to hear Alain’s address and then have the opportunity in the following days to meet and learn more about this incredible market was fantastic. There were, however, some serious messages to be shared and a warning for the industry – Spend per passenger is falling, so brands, retailers and airports need to do more. This was a stark reminder of the challenges that still exist for Travel Retailers.

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As the conference continued, we heard from a variety of speakers, including Robert Guest (Foreign Editor, The Economist) who reminded us that the future DOES involve AI and robots and begged the question – how was our industry planning on responding to this evolution?

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We heard from Kate Ancketill (CEO, GDR Creative Intelligence) who provided some critical observations on the industry and made some stark remarks on how Domestic stores were moving forwards with some truly exciting, immersive and experiential store formats. I found Kate’s presentation extremely interesting as she was able to update us on what she refers to as the ‘new battle ground for retail – experience and convenience’. Drawing our attention to retailers such as the Eataly ‘theme park’ in Bologna and Amazon Go model, I was already starting to consider how Travel Retail was going to move towards the experiential model quicker to meet changing passenger needs. Is Travel Retail moving quickly enough? As brands, retailers, agencies and airports – are we taking enough risks to elevate and enhance the experience airside?

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One of my favourite presentations was from Vanessa Wright (Pernod Ricard Group Vice President Sustainability & Responsibility). I was particularly struck by Vanessa’s presentation that recognised how the Travel Retail Industry is aware that social and environmental disruption is becoming more of a challenge and yet brands are not doing enough to respond. She spoke about the importance of ‘nurturing terroir’ (preserving our planet and biodiversity) and then ‘valuing people’ (building local communities and developing new crop production methods).

I spent time considering Vanessa’s parting thoughts on sustainability. What is the TR industry doing about the environment and safeguarding our extraordinary biodiversity for future generations? There are some great examples out there and after chatting to friends about this later in the evening, we all shared a similar view that this topic wasn’t going to go away – sustainability and responsibility is a huge opportunity for Travel Retail and one that each and every one of us can influence, support and help to change – starting now.