Leadership in 2021

Leadership of thought and action 2021

We highlight outstanding examples of creative and positive thinking, investment and action that aided our sector’s recovery in 2021 and advanced its business prospects.

“A place of discovery, surprise and experience” – Samaritaine Paris Pont-Neuf by DFS

When French President Emmanuel Macron and LVMH Chairman and Chief Executive Bernard Arnault pulled back the richly textured blue cloth covering the inauguration plaque for La Samaritaine Paris Pont-Neuf amid tumultuous applause on 21 June they were doing far more than simply inaugurating a store. They were marking the rebirth of a revered Parisian institution, a store – shuttered since 2005 first for safety and then for restoration reasons – that had held a special place in the hearts of the French capital’s citizens since 1870, when Ernest Cognacq and his wife Marie-Louise Jaÿ opened a shop on the corner of Rue du Pont-Neuf and Rue de La Monnaie. Its reopening in mid-2021 – a project by LVMH and DFS Group (the latter co-owned by LVMH and Co-Founder Robert Miller) – surely ranks as the most ambitious store opening of this or any other year in travel retail history.

The Moodie Davitt Report Brands Editor & Digital Marketing Manager Hannah Tan-Gillies was on location at Samaritaine Paris Pont-Neuf by DFS and recorded this short video in late October that captures the drama and the buzz of the landmark store

In designing and curating La Samaritaine’s rebirth, the project simultaneously embodied the original founders’ adventurous spirit and blended it with daring modernity, both in terms of architecture and the shopping and dining offer. DFS Group Chairman & CEO Benjamin Vuchot (see also our Interviews of the Year) described the store as “an incredible turning point” for DFS, one that allows the travel retailer to showcase its savoir faire of being a trusted companion for the luxury traveller and to create “a destination within a destination”. We covered the story from its early stages through to execution. That covered culminated in a memorable, recently released edition of The Moodie Davitt Spotlight Series (click on the cover, right, for access), in which we presented that destination in detail, and highlighted the vision and spirit that underpinned its development. We believe it represents a stirring evocation of a thrilling place to visit.


Click on the image to open the Samaritaine Spotlight eZine


The elegant, experiential La Samaritaine building, reimagined for the modern consumer (Photo above: We are Contents; below: Matthieu Salvaing)


Photos (above and below): Matthieu Salvaing


Sealing Hainan’s status as the world’s travel retail hotspot

The far-sighted Chinese government policy to develop Hainan’s offshore duty free sector continues to buoy brands and retailers across the industry eco-system. Following the momentous 1 July 2020 move to increase the annual offshore duty free allowance for shoppers visiting Hainan, and to expand the range of duty free categories on offer, the business has taken another big leap forward through 2021, even with some COVID-related restrictions on travel from the Mainland in certain key travel periods.

The spectacular Haikou International Duty Free City, scheduled to open next June, will elevate the shopping offer in Hainan yet further

Sales were lifted to new heights by a wave of domestic travel to the resort island, allied to the vast investment in new stores in late 2020 and early 2021. The line-up today includes the dominant force, China Duty Free Group, at multiple locations, alongside CNSC; Hainan Development Holdings (with Dufry as support partner); Shenzhen Duty Free (with DFS Group) and Hainan Tourism Investment Duty Free Co (supported by Lagardère Travel Retail), with Wangfujing Duty Free among the new licence holders preparing to enter the channel in Hainan.

“The opening of Sanya International Duty Free Plaza symbolises that modernisation and offers triumphant proof that CNSC has become a world-class duty free retailer” wrote Martin Moodie as the state-owned travel retailer inaugurated its first Hainan store

All are attracted by the size of the prize. Local authorities have projected that total sales could reach US$15.5 billion by 2022 and US$46.5 billion by the end of 2025 in line with Hainan Province’s 14th Five-Year Plan. While those figures remain some way off – and the sector has its challenges, ranging from education and training to some luxury brands remaining uncertain about investing – the trajectory is positive. In recent days we reported that offshore duty free sales in Hainan province in the first 11 months of 2021 rose by +90.5% year-on-year to CNY44.2 billion (US$6.9 billion) according to Haikou Customs.

A sight to gladden the hearts of the Hainan Tourism Investment Duty Free Co and Lagardère Travel Retail teams as expectant shoppers poured into the store on opening day. Photo (below): Summer Wang, SSTV

Although sales have been impacted over recent months by various COVID-19 outbreaks on the Mainland, 2021 is certain to be a record year for the sector, well ahead of the 2020 figure (including tax paid items) of RMB32.74 billion (US$5.05 billion). That speaks to a travel retail channel that continues on an upward curve, one that will remain hugely valuable to the industry through 2022 as uncertainty over international travel remains.

Times DF is lit up in red as senior representatives from Mission Hills, Shenzhen Duty Free Group and DFS Group celebrate the opening of the new Beauty Hall on 18 December 2021, complete with some spectacular brand executions

Click here for our Hainan Special Report from February 2021 – one of our best-read titles of this year – which focused on the rise of the offshore duty free business and its implications for the wider travel retail industry.


Expectant shoppers line up as Phase II of the GDF Plaza development (run by Hainan Development Holdings with support from Dufry) opened on 30 November; below, Urban Decay is one of many new brands to open in the latest expansion

“Everything can be done if you think big and act fast and long term”

Billed in advance as the “ideal gateway” for brands to enter the lucrative Hainan market, the four-day China International Consumer Products Expo (Hainan Expo) on 7-10 May underlined the powerful significance for today and tomorrow of Hainan’s booming offshore duty free sector and the Free Trade Port development. The event, organised by Hainan Provincial Bureau of International Economic Development (Hainan IEDB) – a close partner of The Moodie Davitt Report – welcomed 1,505 companies and 2,628 exhibitors from 70 different countries. The Expo attracted over 240,000 visitors and was covered by 160 different media outlets. Attention now turns to Hainan Expo 2022, dates for which were revealed by Hainan IEDB during the Virtual Travel Retail Expo. The organisation’s Director General Han Shengjian confirmed that the event will take place in Haikou at the Hainan International Convention and Exhibition Center from 12-16 April 2022. The short video on this page captures the amazing energy and buzz of the 2021 event.

Faith in the future at Qatar Airways Group

Over the past year, Qatar Airways Group has emphatically backed its belief in the future of travel and travel retail. With a series of ambitious retail and dining openings completed or nearing completion, new agreements in place to further elevate the quality of commercial and consumer activities and a continuing major investment in terminal expansion, it has been a landmark 12 months for Qatar Duty Free, Qatar Airways and Hamad International Airport. Qatar Duty Free has addressed consumer thirst for new experiences with its new-look offer – delivering 21 stores and restaurants during its 21st anniversary year. Its focus on investing amid the downturn and accelerating plans to build the retail and dining portfolio while traffic levels were lower has paid dividends.

Pitch perfect: Qatar Duty Free has set some big goals for 2022. Below, celebratory signage as Hamad International wins Skytrax Airport of the Year for 2021

For example, Qatar Duty Free posted a +60% rise in spend per passenger in all new and redeveloped stores in September compared to the same month in 2019 – a performance maintained since. Many of the brands that supported it through the crisis are now once again ahead of 2019 sales numbers as 2021 draws to a close. That philosophy to invest – eloquently outlined by Chief Executive His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker in one of our Interviews of the Year – has also laid the foundations of what promises to be a momentous 2022 for Qatar Airways Group – and for the State of Qatar – with the FIFA World Cup set to take place in November and December.

The unveiling of luxury avenue Viale di Lusso was among the exceptional landmarks of the year for Qatar Duty Free

The spectacular HIA terminal expansion – timed to open before the World Cup – will increase annual passenger capacity at the airport to 60 million. The space will feature 2,700sq m of duty free retail and 40 new stores including 18 luxury boutiques as Qatar Duty Free expands its luxury portfolio. Expect further investment in the future to follow at Qatar Airways Group – starting with what promises to be a memorable 2022, and a further raising of the bar for retail and dining.

Valentino at Viale di Lusso (above) and in-house fashion concept Q-Denim were among two of the new openings during a memorable 2021 for QDF

Seizing the opportunity at The QDF Factor

In 2020, amid the depths of the industry’s greatest crisis, Qatar Duty Free and The Moodie Davitt Report jointly created The QDF Factor, an unprecedented initiative to encourage and champion creativity at a time when travel retail needed it most. The grand prize: six-month listing and high-profile promotion at Qatar Duty Free’s award-winning retail offer in Hamad International Airport, Doha, plus a wide-ranging multi-media advertising package via The Moodie Davitt Report. In 2021, we repeated this extraordinary industry competition, aimed at encouraging innovation and differentiation among brand owners – which once more attracted a diverse and compelling array of entries.

It was won by a unique collaborative concept – Wines of Golf Legends – between some of the world’s most illustrious golfers and an array of outstanding winemakers, led by French wine specialist Peuch & Besse. In second place was UFO 2 by Foreo, a new facemask device from the innovative beauty tech and wellness brand. In joint third were premium tea brand Ahmad Tea and luxury skincare brand Margaret Dabbs. The Big Reveal (see video below) took place on the final day of the Virtual Travel Retail Expo, at a ceremony led by Qatar Duty Free Vice President Operations Thabet Musleh and The Moodie Davitt Report Founder & Chairman Martin Moodie, and President Dermot Davitt. In a fittingly upbeat finale, Thabet Musleh also announced that all finalists will be offered a listing for 2022 at Hamad International Airport – a show of support and leadership from one of the industry’s most forward-thinking retailers at a critical time.

A progressive voice for aviation

Shashank Nigam, Founder and CEO of aviation marketing consultancy SimpliFlying, was a calm, reasoned leadership voice on behalf of the industry this year, as airports and airlines dealt with the task of rebuilding passenger confidence. Recently, SimpliFlying published its reimagining of the traveller journey under the title ‘The rise of green travel – Singapore to San Diego in 2026’. The report zoomed in on over 30 key areas of the end-to-end passenger journey across booking, airport experience, lounges, inflight experience, transit and post-flight experience. This forward-looking insight represents a snapshot of the work Nigam and his colleagues have undertaken through the pandemic, advising partners (principally airlines) across the industry on how to brand and engage customers in these changing times. Nigam has also nurtured a wide, engaged audience on LinkedIn for his thought-provoking views and examples of best practice. Under his leadership, SimpliFlying is an actor for positive change and fresh ideas as the aviation sector continues to face up to the greatest challenge in its history.


Click here to access a new vision for sustainable aviation from SimpliFlying

The Future Shapers: Urban-Air Port and a world of new commercial possibilities

In February, our eyes were opened to a brave new world of travel when we first interviewed Urban-Air Port Executive Chairman Ricky Sandhu. His business is at the forefront of an infrastructure drive behind a revolutionary mode of transport – electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. Sandhu impressed us instantly with his authoritative grasp of the potential of sustainable urban air mobility, as a means of providing seamless passenger journeys and deliveries, while reducing congestion, cutting air pollution and decarbonising transport. He alerted us to the prospect that thousands of mini-airports supporting this environmentally-friendly form of travel will spring up across the world in the coming years. Sandhu told us we could see more than 200 of them in a city such as London alone within the next ten years.

And he piqued our interest with his assertion that this will bring huge commercial opportunities for retailers, brands and F&B businesses, as explained in a follow-up interview here. Since then, Urban-Air Port has completed a deal with Hyundai to develop 65 electric flying sites across the world, and struck a partnership with Munich Airport International to further develop ground infrastructure and airport operations to handle eVTOL aircraft. These stories offer an intriguing snapshot of where the eVTOL industry is headed, a market which NASA has predicted could be worth up to US$500 billion in the US alone in the near term. We’ll be closely following Urban-Air Port’s next steps, and in particular the launch of Air-One – the world-first fully-operational hub for eVTOL aircraft – in Coventry, UK, in Spring 2022. That will represent the culmination of the first chapter in a pioneering story; we expect many more to follow from Sandhu and his team.


Urban-Air Port Air One is located in the UK city of Coventry and will become the world’s first fully-operational hub for future electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft

Travel Retail Superstars and FAB Superstars: Recognising staff who make a difference

In 2021 The Moodie Davitt Report launched the first edition of an annual awards programme for travel retail and food & beverage employees across airport, airline, downtown store and cruise sectors. Travel Retail Superstars and sister programme FAB Superstars (for the food & beverage sector) were developed to recognise and celebrate frontline and behind the scenes heroes and heroines who helped keep the industry going throughout 2020 and 2021.

We asked employers to submit a written entry for each individual or team, addressing the impact made by the person or department through their actions, and how far they reached; how they measured success in terms of service or helped improve the business; and what made a particular staff member or team stand out. The announcements were made on the final day of the Virtual Travel Retail Expo in October. Click on the videos to view the awards ceremonies (including judges’ comments) in full.

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The Moodie Davitt eZine Issue 304 | 21 December 2021

The Moodie Davitt eZine is published 15 times per year by The Moodie Davitt Report (Moodie International Ltd). © All material is copyright and cannot be reproduced without the permission of the Publisher. To find out more visit www.moodiedavittreport.com and to subscribe, please e-mail sinead@moodiedavittreport.com

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