TFWA Asia Pacific 2018: Live blog

Scroll down for news from Monday’s conference and Tuesday and Wednesday’s show

Thursday, 10 May

08.45: We are here for the last day of the TFWA Asia Pacific show in Singapore.

09.30: Power charging brand Skross is seeking out anew sort of ambassador for the brand – people within the industry. The idea is to get frequent travellers trying out their products on the go, according to Skross’ Pia Kautz. The brand is also looking to launch its Jacob Jansen collaboration, which was announced in Cannes last year, at the TFWA World Exhibition and Conference in October.

11.00: The Desigual theme for AW18 is “we are animal”. Rosa Rojas, the brand’s communications and marketing officer, told Frontier how the Barcelona-based fashion brand comes up with its striking visuals. Designers are given a key word or phrase and are then taken away from their computers to design patterns by hand.

At the top of the current crop is Desigual’s multi-purpose purse and bag, which can be shifted from one use to the other through the removal of the metal strap.

12.30: Business is booming for Kurate as the Irish jewellery brand saw growth if 40% last year. With listings with King Power and DFASS , among others, the team is now focusing on building a global brand. Key account manager Claire O’Donnell offered an insight to their success: “We have a small team,” she says, emphasising the power of an enthusiastic group who celebrate and are emotionally invested  in the brand’s development. She adds: “We don’t want to lose that.”

A small, flexible team has paid dividends for the brand as it looks to meet the demands of customers. When easyJet asked for a special box for one product, Kurate went to work and three weeks later the new packaging was released.

12.35: Feedback to this year’s Singapore show has been “positive”, TFWA President Erik Juul-Mortensen tells the closing press conference. He adds: “People have felt that they really have had a reason to be here.”

But, he continues: “It wouldn’t be me and it wouldn’t be TFWA if we weren’t leaving Singapore with a list of things which need tweaking and changing.”

Up to Wednesday there were 3,031 regular delegates, which is a 3% increase on last year. The number of visiting companies and retailers is also up. As previously noted, the number of exhibitors has fallen slightly from last year.

14.30: What is the secret of Crystal Head Vodka‘s success? The Canadian company has hit the jackpot again with its new John Alexander edition bottle. The new line has got a great response at the show, as has Signal Hill whisky which is a product of the same team and received five orders in 12 weeks. Vice president of global travel retail Brian Meret tells us: “We have a very good team and there are no egos on the team.”

15.45: Paul & Shark is debuting its AW18 and SS18 ranges at the event. Accessories are important for the brand in GTR. It has also opened a new store at Russia’s Sheremetyevo International Airport Terminal B today. The shop has a modern look which keeps with the brand’s yachting heritage, while adopting a more modern appearance.

Wednesday, 9 May

09.30: There has been growth across the board for Accolade Wines in the past year. The biggest leap has been in the Australian market. Following the TFWA show in Cannes the company signed a deal with James Richardson to increase from  two to 47 listings in the country. Accolade also provides wines for Virgin Australia to serve onboard for customers, a move which commercial director of global travel retail Rupert Firbank called “really good for us in the market”.

Looking at the Asian market, Firbank says there are great strides to make as the region represents the best potential for growth as demand for wine is high among Chinese shoppers.

10.15: The growth of Tito’s Handmade Vodka continues, managing director John McDonnell tells Frontier he has just agreed a deal with Qatar Duty Free for the Middle East retailer to carry the brand. It is also set to launch in Paris, Dublin, Cork, Cyprus, Barbados and Auckland.

But McDonnell’s focus today is on the importance of online sales. He says the industry needs a single digital platform to allow shoppers to buy “in the air” and collect when they arrive. He says he is having discussions with people about creating “the Uber of travel retail”.

12.00: Agio Cigars has just secured a listing in Malaysia, global travel retail manager Gertrude Stormink tells us. The brand is doing well with  hand made cigars in the market, but the focus for the year ahead is going to be activations.

14.00: Swedish luggage brand Thule is developing in the GTR market with a new line of cases and bags.


The awards have been flying here in Singapore with the DFNI Asia Awards and TRBusiness’ Travel Retail Awards both taking place.

Here are the winners of the Travel Retail Awards, which took place on Monday night.

  • Best children’s product: Lego – Ninjago Movie Green Ninja Mech Dragon
  • Best confectionery product: Butlers – Platinum Collection
  • Best electronics product (tied): AYO – Anti Jet Lag Glasses & Foreo – Luna Mini 2
  • Best fashion & accessories product: Desigual – Inflight Exclusive 2-in-1 Wallet & Clutch

    The inaugural TRB Awards raised €5,600 for the Women in Travel Retail charity

  • Best fragrance product: Oscar de la Renta – Bella Blanca
  • Best make-up product Nars – Powermatte Lip Pigment (Shiseido)
  • Best skincare, haircare, bath and body product: Seascape Island Apothecary – Travel Essentials Trio Gift Set
  • Best spirits product: Aberfeldy 12 years old – Gold Bar Travel Retail Exclusive Gift Pack (Bacardi)
  • Best sunglasses/eyewear product: Travel Blue – Z-Zoom Reading Glasses
  • Best travel accessory: Cabeau – Evolution S3
  • Best watches & jewellery product: Toscow – Provence Romance
  • Best wines product: Baron Philippe de Rothschild – Mouton Cadet Reserve Bordeaux
  • Best travel exclusive product: Aberfeldy 12 years old – Gold Bar Travel Retail Exclusive Gift Pack (Bacardi)
  • Best airport for customer service: Singapore Changi Airport (SIN)
  • Best digital and social media offer: Singapore Changi Airport (SIN)
  • Best airport for ‘sense of place’: Singapore Changi Airport (SIN)
  • Best airport for retail environment (as voted for by millennials): Dubai International Airport (DXB) in partnership with Dubai Duty Free
  • Best airport for retail environment (as voted for by all age groups): Singapore Changi Airport (SIN)

Here are the winners from the DFNI Asia Awards, which took place on Tuesday evening.

  • Airport Retailer of the Year: The Shilla Duty Free
  • Inflight Retailer of the Year: DFASS Singapore
  • Cruise/Ferry Retailer of the Year Winner: Starboard Cruise Services
  • Best Asian Travel-Retailer Innovator: Mumbai Duty Free, Flemingo Travel Retail
  • Airport Authority with Most Supportive Approach to Travel Retail: Changi Airport Group
  • Travel Retailer Operating in a Single Country – Asia/Pacific: King Power International Group
  • Middle East Retailer of the Year: Dubai Duty Free (Highly commended: Qatar Duty Free)
  • Best Marketing Activation: Around the Whiskey World at Changi Airport, Changi Airport Group (Highly commended: Hendrick’s World Cucumber Day, William Grant & Sons)
  • Best New Asia/Pacific Product: The Macallan Quest Collection, Edrington Global Travel Retail
  • Best New Product Packaging: The Macallan Quest Collection, Edrington Global Travel Retail
  • Best New Shop Opening: King Power Rangnam, King Power International Group
  • Best Supplier: William Grant & Sons
  • Asia/Pacific Travel Retailer of the Year: King Power International Group

Tuesday, 8 May

09.00: The conference yesterday seems far behind us as the exhibition kicks off in earnest this morning. TFWA President Erik Juul-Mortensen was joined by managing director John Rimmer to receive the scrolls from dancing lions and declare the show officially open.

In total there are 309 exhibitors at the show, slightly down from the 2017 total of 316. This is due to a fall in the number of exhibitors in the fashion/accessories/luggage category, the jewellery and watches sector and the wines and spirits category. Those declines have been offset by a rise in the number of confectionery and fine food brands exhibiting at the show.

10.00: The chocolate market is becoming more competitive in Asia, according to Perfetti Van Melle area manager travel retail Asia Benedict Ho Kuo Chen. He says the company, which has brands including Mentos and Chupa Chups, has spotted an increase in purchases of  ‘second-use items’. “Consumers are looking for fun,” he tells Frontier.

The change in inflight eating habits, as airlines have begun to charge for on-board food, has also boosted the confectionery sector. Chupa Chup sharing bag sales are on the up as travellers stock up on snacks to avoid buying meals on the plane.

10.30: Kusmi Tea is focusing on Japan as it intensifies its presence in their Asian region. The French brand will open 25 boutiques in the country and also launched its first shop in Seoul last month. The company, which has seen strong results for its detox line of teas, is also planning stores in Hong Kong and Singapore.

11.00: The Asian shoppers are a focus for perfume company INCC which has launched its Mercedes Benz Club Blue exclusively in the region. “The idea was to have something specific done for [the shoppers in the region],” says international key account manager Gabrielle Salzgeber.

13.00: The Asian market is a “maiden voyage” for Rituals, according to director of wholesale Neil Ebbutt. The brand has opened downtown with DFS in Hong Kong and is now looking to expand in the region.

Also read: Rituals drives growth with two new DFS openings

14.15: It is a big day for Travel Blue, which is launching not one, but two products at the show. The Dream Pillow is an inflight neck pillow made using real feathers. Executive director Jonathan Smith says: “This is what our business is about: keeping it simple. We are making it more luxurious.”

The brand’s Z-Zoom sunglasses range also debuted at the show. Smith tells Frontier the range came about as a request from a retailer after the success of their Z-Zoom readers line.

16.00: It has been a strong year for Loch Lomond Distillery, but commercial director Andre de Almeida is already looking to the next big project after signing a deal to sponsor the Open golf tournament. The distillery has agreed a deal with Colin Montgomery to feature him and has another golfer set to join the promotion, but de Almeida is keeping that name under wraps for now.

Monday, 7 May

08.30: Outside the conference hall here in Singapore, the JTI team are promoting their Future of Brands scheme which is looking to bring the industry onside to battle the increasing threat of regulation.

JTI external communications manager Dmitry Krivtsov tells Frontier the key thing is to get all brands talking together and discussing regulation with governments with a united voice. He says it is important to highlight the financial importance of the markets which are under threat from excessive regulation.

JT corporate affairs and communications director for duty free Gemma Bateson adds that GTR is vital to the future and financial security of the travel industry; if markets are lost to regulation then ticket prices will go up.

09.00: Our first session here at the Marina Bay Sands Expo & Conference Centre today will feature talks from TFWA President Erik Juul-Mortensen, APTRA President Andrew Ford, Siri co-founder Adam Cheyer and futurist Shivvy Jervis.

TFWA managing director John Rimmer takes to the stage to kick off the event, after a presentation by a visual artist displaying the power of VR technology. He points out that GTR should be in a boom time, but passenger spend is not rising in line with passenger growth.

09.15: TFWA president Erik Juul-Mortensen takes to the stage first to address the state of the industry.

He tells delegates the initial outlook for 2017 is good, with GTR sales up 8% worldwide at $68.6bn. Asia drove the improvement for the year, with 11.6% growth.

He argued the industry needs to do better at sharing data or risk losing out. Juul-Mortensen chides: “As an industry we are putting ourselves at a disadvantage if we cannot define what we are and what we are not.”

He admits sharing information is at odds with much of the business model, but argues: “we have to overcome this…our common future depends on it.”

The outlook for Asia, according to Juul-Mortensen, is good. The economic growth in the region is strong and it boasts the highest customer satisfaction in GTR.

Turning his eye to challenges for travel retail as a whole, he adds the business model for GTR is “problematic” as the value proposition is under threat with an increasingly diverse customer.

09.54: “Every now and then one feels a wave of excitement and at the moment we feel this in Asia,” APRTA president Andrew Ford tells delegates.

He adds that shoppers in Asia are “buying until they can’t lift the bag anymore” and figures in the region are at a level not seen elsewhere in the world. But shoppers want to be engaged by product and the retail experience.

Ford tells delegates: “We really need to engage the customer much more than in the past”

“The audience is set…but what about the actors? Are we con scripts?”

Ford also addresses the biggest threat to the industry – the Illicit Trade Protocol. He says: “Yes you heard me right, they are trying to completely ban tobacco in duty free.”

Ford adds: “A ban would do great damage to duty free and the airport industry.”

10.40: Siri co-founder Adam Cheyer has taken the stage to discuss the growing importance of AI in the world today.

“In this decade AI has produced results that I never thought I would see in my lifetime,” he says. “Imagine working 2 years seeing change progress and then boom, surpassing all expectations.”

He lays out the huge changes in the last 30 years and saying we are due another “paradigm”, but Cheyer says the “singularity” where AI surpasses humanity will not happen in his lifetime. “Everyone wants a human touch and confidence in that area and that is where we don’t have anything in AI which can come close just yet.”

For the future our eyes should be on Asia, Cheyer believes, due to the region’s current technological advancement. In Asia “no one goes anywhere anymore, they just punch a button and it is delivered to their house,” he argues. Cheyer says he believes the crossover between digital and physical retail will happen in Asia first.

11.15: Futurist Shivvy Jervis tells delegates: “As we are becoming more digital, digital technologies are becoming inherently more human.”

But she fears travel retail is missing opportunities to capture the attention of shoppers. Technology now allows shoppers to touch and see items through VR, but travel retail’s digital engagement leaves something to be desired, she argues.

“[Make use of] a piece of digital signage which at the moment, let’s face it, is very passive. All I’m doing now, because it’s in a blind spot now, is walk past it,” Jervis says.

“If you could develop this into a digital signage or poster it would make a difference. It could make it feel like the customer is touching a product.”

She introduces an app which reads your face when looking at your phone and reacts accordingly. It evaluates your emotion in real time and can then sync with inventory and create purchase opportunities. This is to be rolled out by Air New Zealand.

She closes with one more fact: 62% of travellers make an unplanned purchase off the back of an immersive brand experience.

11.50: We are back for the second session of the morning here at Marina Bay Sands. This session will look at the current business model and whether it needs review. Boston Consulting Group managing director Filippo Bianchi, Greater Toronto Airports Authority vice president Scott Collier, Neuhaus CEO Ignace van Doorselaere, ARI CEO Jack MacGowan, Hunter Palmer Global Retail Solutions co-founder Keith Hunter, Lagardere Travel Retail Asia Pacific COO Emmanuel de Place and King Power Hong Kong managing director Sunil Tuli will debate the topic.

12.15: Boston Consulting Group managing director Filippo Bianchi kicks us off by presenting a report his company has carried out for TFWA looking at the business model today.

He warns the industry is not sharing data well enough and has become a “food chain” not an “ecosystem”. He says the business has not reached peak creation value as there is still a data rich environment in the market.

“[You have the] data richest retail environment out there,” Bianchi says. “Virtually 100% of transactions can be linked back to an individual customer profile. I can’t think of any other or any individual player in this room fully leveraging this at the moment.”

He believes there is about $5bn worth of sales to be captured out there, but the key problem is that those gathering the data are not the ones who can use it.

12.42: Neuhaus CEO Ignace van Doorselaere tells the conference: “If an industry grows, it deserves to grow.”

He believes sharing data is vital, but there must be more flexibility in how the whole retail offering is set up. “The airport needs to offer the experience to the traveller but doesn’t always offer the financial deal to the operator to provide it.,” he argues.

“Airlines want to offer the experience but they have low operating margins.”

He adds: “In a world split of cash flow how can we bring the consumer back in one piece? That to me is our common challenge. How can we not have a fFrankenstein consumer, which is still human but is composed of four pieces [splitting its] spending time from home to landing.”

13.15: Who is the shark in the travel retail trinity food chain? That was the question being debated by the panel. Bianchi and van Doorselaere are joined by Greater Toronto Airports Authority vice president Scott Collier, ARI CEO Jack MacGowan, Hunter Palmer Global Retail Solutions co-founder Keith Hunter, Lagardere Travel Retail Asia Pacific COO Emmanuel de Place and King Power Hong Kong managing director Sunil Tuli.

Collier argues that Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is the real shark as he can “take all of it” if he wishes to.

He is asked whether the airports would be willing to be the ones to take the leap and make the change from the current problematic model. He replies: “We would be willing to be the member of the trinity to take the leap, but it doesn’t matter because we don’t have a choice.”

Collier believes brands need to be unleashed in the terminal. Tuli argues that brands are the only ones making money as “they don’t sell to retailers at a loss.”

The conversation goes on as all members of the panel agree a change is needed. Moderator, TFWA managing director John Rimmer, asks: “Everyone wants to share data but no one wants to be the one to share it.”

The point rings true as members debate the circumstances under which they would be willing to share their information.

“We are not going anywhere,” Tuli argues. “Where is the solution?”

14.30: We are back for a workshop session this afternoon, entitled Call of Duty Free: gamifying travel retail. TFWA conference manager Michele Miranda will moderate a panel consisting of Portland Design director of environments Lewis Allen, author Paul Bulencea, Guerlian travel retail area manager for China and Taiwan Jessica Lau.

Bulencea kicks off his talk by telling delegates he is going to tell them how the GTR industry is “not able to put one and two together”. He expands that the idea is based on the fact the gamers experience “deep flow and immersion” while playing.

“What do we show in our ads? We don’t show the products, we show the feeling,” he says.

“We should provide people that feelings we promise in our commercials.”

15.35: Allen explains that shoppers are not in the physical world anymore, they are in the digital world. He expands: “We are already practicing the idea of gamification in things we do in everyday life. eBay is an auction. Singles’ Day is delayed gratification.”

With 10,000 passengers streaming Netflix in the airport every hour it privides an opportunity, Allen thinks. It is a chance to bring them into your space.

He believes the “locate mission” is a bad idea for design. Stores should not just give shoppers the item they want, it should encourage and help them to explore and find something new. Allen highlights the idea of Ikea: “You go there for a sofa and you come out three hours later without a sofa but with about 300 other things which you didn’t know you needed but which became very important when you were there.”

Allen draws the focus onto Pokémon GO. Players were drawn to areas where they could find Pokémon while playing the game. He says this shows the importance of doing something with dead space through an experience which draws people into the brand and its ideas.

16.00: For the Chinese, games are part of their culture because most of them have grown up in a single child household, it is how they socialise. That was the opening message from Lau. She pointed out 50% of shoppers in GTR in 2017 were Chinese, so this is vital.

But at the moment only 8% of Chinse own a passport and 74 million travel-ready millennials will graduate in China in the next 10 years. There will be 220 million Chinese tourists by 2020.

“How do we engage them?” Lau asks.

She admits brands believe gamification could hurt their premium positioning, but it is changing “we have to be consumer centric”. For example, Dior created a game which presented VIP passes to an event to winners.

The key things to remember, Lau says, are to know your audience, understand and play games yourself and remember they need incentives.

Touching on one of the day’s hot topics, Lau suggests games could be a good way to capture much sought after data from shoppers.

16.15: In the panel discussion Bulencea asks what experience can be offered which is unique to airports as a way of captialising on the unique nature of GTR. He adds that geolocations could be used to spot dead area in the airport where is might be cheaper to set up an experience which drives travellers to stores.

16.00: In Workshop A the panel of China Channel founder Matthew Brennan, Global Smiling managing director Xin Deng and King Power Hong Kong managing director Sunil Tuli are discussing seamless shopping. Frontier editor Colette Doyle is in the moderating chair.

Tuli argues that frictionless shopping puts the consumer in control and calls for the elimination of anything which does not add values, such as loyalty cards. He says King Power has launched CNPay, which is a next generation POS and retail software.

A key, according to Tuli, is the real-time application of the shopping experience. Customers want to know what is available in real time.

Deng argues that 90% of smartphone shoppers do not know what brand they want at the beginning of their search. Furthermore, 76% of smartphone shoppers visit a business within 25 hours and 28% of them make a purchase.

Sunday, 6 May

23.00: The opening cocktails event at Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay was a resounding success. Industry friends and colleagues renewed acquaintances and forged new professional relationships. Delegates were also treated to an exclusive tour of the gardens themselves.


18.00: We are here in Singapore for the 2018 TFWA Asia Pacific Exhibition & Conference. Over the next five days the Frontier team will be bringing you all the details from this part of the GTR world.

Tomorrow the conference will have the theme of #TRevolution. TFWA president Erik Juul-Mortensen and APTRA president Andrew Ford will both address the challenges and developments across GTR and in the region specifically. High profile speakers including Siri co-founder and VP of engineering Adam Cheyer and futurist and digital economy expert Shivvy Jarvis will also take to the stage. The afternoon workshops will focus on seamless shopping, gamifying travel retail and safeguarding our industry. Frontier editor Colette Doyle will moderate the first of those workshops.

Tonight the whole event kicks off with the opening cocktails at the Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay.