Bold and beautiful in Beijing

CDF-Sunrise Duty Free last month celebrated the inauguration of a unique cluster of eight luxury concept stores from some of the most illustrious names in beauty – Clé de Peau Beauté; Dior; Estée Lauder; Guerlain; La Mer; La Prairie; Lancôme; and Sisley – at Beijing Capital International Airport Terminal 2.

This line-up of stand-alone beauty boutiques is a first for airport retail in Asia Pacific and an emphatic statement of intent by both retailer and brands in terms of creating a personalised, immersive and engaging premium beauty experience.

The Moodie Davitt Report enjoyed exclusive travel retail media access at the event. Martin Moodie (right) reports from Beijing on how CDF-Sunrise Duty Free brought the Power of 8 to life.

Premiering the Power of 8 (video courtesy of CDF-Sunrise Duty Free)

8 is the luckiest number in Chinese culture. Pronounced ‘Ba’ (八), the word sounds like ‘fa’(發), which means good fortune or wealth in Chinese. CDF-Sunrise Duty Free is confident that its decision to create a cluster of eight stand-alone beauty concept boutiques at Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA) Terminal 2 will indeed bring good fortune and prosperity to all parties.

The Grand Opening on 17 May marked China Duty Free Group’s (CDFG) coming of age in terms of its beauty offer at the capital city’s gateway, following the July 2017 award of the BCIA T2 and T3 duty free concessions to CDFG and Sunrise Duty Free, respectively. That dual success led to CDFG’s finalisation of its previously conditional 51% acquisition of Sunrise’s Beijing operations (and later those in Shanghai) – and the creation of the CDF-Sunrise Duty Free branding.

A stylised version of the eight boutiques was created for the spectacular evening celebrations at the Four Seasons Hotel

The eight-strong beauty boutique boulevard is not only a first for CDFG and Sunrise but also for airport retail. While several of the world’s leading beauty houses (including some represented in Beijing) operate stand-alone boutiques in various travel retail locations, the concept of such a clustered avenue has not been seen before.

But it’s more than just an impressive line-up of renowned brands. All the houses have created something different in order to foster an immersive and engaging premium beauty experience. Each boutique is on trend with regard to contemporary shopping habits, via a focus on personalisation, exclusivity, digital interaction and high-class service.

The brand line-up is a talking point in itself. Yes, many (though not all, Chanel is a notable absentee) of the biggest beauty names are present – The Estée Lauder Companies; L'Oréal/Lancôme; LVMH (Dior, Guerlain); Shiseido (Clé de Peau Beauté) – but so are such fast-growing, carefully nurtured brands as Sisley and La Prairie. “CDF-Sunrise Duty Free has been really been bold here,” one leading brand told The Moodie Davitt Report. “Would leading European retailers dared to have tested such a concept rather than simply played safe?”

Some of the brands have chosen to major on a single line, offering it only in the standalone store and not in the main CDF-Sunrise Duty Free beauty shop nearby. Others, such as Sisley, are only represented in the boutique format, foregoing the main shop for the dedicated focus (and space) that the concept store allows.

Estée Lauder presents the first dedicated Re-Nutriv travel retail store for its popular luxury crème. Lancôme has chosen to focus on premium anti-aging skincare line Absolue (again, the brand’s first travel retail boutique worldwide); while Guerlain offers a beautifully curated selection of fragrances that underline the house’s 190-year history as a perfume maker.

Dior showcases its micro-nutritive lotion Dior Prestige in a lovely and refined boutique setting. Sisley, La Mer and Clé de Peau Beauté display their ranges in elegant environments befitting of such high-end products.

Golden sand is poured into the hourglass to mark the opening of the CDF-Sunrise beauty boutiques at Beijing Capital International Airport

Golden sand is poured into the hourglass to inaugurate the CDF-Sunrise beauty boutiques at Beijing Capital International Airport

It's a heady mix and one that underlines CDFG’s ambitions to be considered a world-class retailer capable of mixing it with the sector heavyweights. That ambition was underlined by CDFG President Charles Chen in his opening remarks at the opening ceremony, which saw representatives from all eight brands plus CDF-Sunrise Duty Free management led by Chen and Beijing Capital International Airport Co Vice President Du Qiang pour jugs of golden sand over an hourglass to mark the inauguration.

Chen said that the Grand Opening represented a breakthrough in offering world-class beauty retailing to Chinese consumers.
“The eight concept stores are designed based on creating a travel experience,” he noted.

Charles Chen: “This eight-store opening is not just about increasing the sales for all the brands but also greatly improving the image of the airport”

Chen embellished those comments during a private dinner that night for brand partners, CDF-Sunrise Duty Free and selected media. “The opening of these unique eight beauty concept stores left a very deep impression for me,” he said. “For me, and for a lot of people who have visited the stores, this is the first time to see something like that – featuring new concepts and personalised, specialty products.

“This eight-store opening is not just about increasing the sales for all the brands but also greatly improving the image of the airport. So the airport operator is delighted.”

“The eight concept stores opened today are the first of their kind in the Asia Pacific region.”
– Beijing Capital International Airport Co Vice President Du Qiang

Speaking during the opening earlier in the day, Beijing Capital International Airport Co Vice President Du Qiang spoke warmly of his pleasure in the opening, underlining the critical role that customer service – and related commercial revenues – play for the airport.

“Last year, Beijing Airport’s commercial revenues witnessed rapid development,” he said. “In 2018 they contributed 52.7% of BCIA’s total revenue and this year the proportion is expected to exceed 60 percent. In 2018, the sales of duty free products increased by 27.3%, giving a strong boost to our commercial development.

“BCIA attaches great importance to the development of our duty free business. Last year, we devoted a dedicated marketing fund to duty free business resulting in sales growth of RMB120 million (US$17.4 million) and this investment will be further increased this year.

“The eight concept stores opened today are the first of their kind in the Asia Pacific region. They are not only about product display and sales; they also represent an innovative business model by bringing a new shopping experience to our passengers. This is consistent with BCIA’s goal to improve customer satisfaction by enhancing and enriching the passenger experience.”

Toasting success: Brands and retailer raise a glass to the collaboration

Should beauty command more space in airport retail?

The early success of the concept stores (which were soft opened in time for Chinese New Year) prompted several of the brand executives present at the Grand Opening to argue that beauty is too often underspaced in airport retail.

“Beauty is what is driving the airport retail business worldwide, and yet it is poorly represented in terms of overall retail space,” said one brand representative.

“Many airports are giving insufficient space to beauty and too much to fashion, which seriously underperforms by comparison,” said another.

“This innovation by CDF-Sunrise shows what can be done. The retailer benefits, the airport benefits, the brands benefit and, most of all, the consumer benefits.”

Asked for his view, L’Oréal Travel Retail Managing Director Vincent Boinay (who was represented at the Beijing event by his regional team led by Managing Director Emmanuel Goulin) told The Moodie Davitt Report, “With all due respect for other categories, I can only reiterate my message that, yes, airports should give more space to beauty. Not only because it is a locomotive in travel retail but also because it is in all continents a customer expectation – our travellers around the world are looking for all types of beauty, all categories from skincare to haircare, from accessible to selective brands.”

Boinay added, “Creating premium skincare outlets is so relevant for Chinese customers and brings a new customer experience at the airport. This is a great initiative for airport, retailers, brands and, of course, customers.”

This special report examines, via words and pictures, how well CDF-Sunrise has met expectations. Time and consumer response will provide the ultimate answers, but early reaction suggests that a very different kind of beauty makeover is set to pay off richly. And that the power of 8 is very strong indeed.

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