TURKEY. Bvlgari officially opened one of its largest and most visually impressive stores in travel retail at Istanbul Airport on Wednesday, in partnership with ATÜ Duty Free and Gebr Heinemann. As reported, the 115sq m store soft-opened in July, featuring the brand’s latest design concept and a product range that neatly blends jewellery, watches and leathergoods, the pillars of the offer.
The Moodie Davitt Report was in Istanbul for the inauguration, alongside other media and guests from the brand, retailer partners and airport company iGA.
Bvlgari has described the new boutique as ‘a piece of Rome at the heart of Istanbul Airport’.
The retail concept, first brought to life at the brand’s Rome flagship on the Via dei Condotti in 2014 through designer Peter Marino, takes inspiration from Bvlgari’s Roman heritage, its links to art and architecture and its 130-year history of using different and unusual colours, motifs and materials.
Striking design elements include the brand’s Condotti showcases, Imperial Saffron shantung silk, marble pillars and a Murano glass chandelier.
The boutique also features a VIP lounge, a first for Bvlgari in travel retail, where guests can discover more about the finest pieces. The lounge is a reproduction of the original ‘Elizabeth Taylor lounge’ (‘Il Salottino Taylor’) – which became known as the Hollywood actress’s safe haven from the paparazzi in Rome.
Speaking to The Moodie Davitt Report at the opening event, Bvlgari Europe Managing Director Vincenzo Pujia said: “It is like the arrival point in a journey. When I got here last week for a downtown visit I said ‘wow, this really is the future’. It is the largest and the most beautiful store we have in travel retail.
“Sales are very good already. This will probably become the number one location for Bvlgari in travel retail, perhaps faster than we expected. It is a great showcase for our partnership business model with ATÜ Duty Free and Heinemann. Istanbul was an obvious choice for us in terms of image for the brand and sets a new standard.”
ATÜ Duty Free CEO Ersan Arcan said: “We are very glad to collaborate with Bvlgari, one of the most significant, world-renowned brands. We harmonise our duty free retail experience of more than 20 years with luxury retailing culture to offer this customer experience. We are a pioneering, experienced and growing company among the duty free operators in Europe in the luxury boutique field. With our new stores over approximately 2,000sq m at Istanbul Airport, we have the goal to offer the best service.”
Once all are opened, ATÜ Duty Free will run 16 stores at the location, across luxury and destination merchandise.
“Bvlgari is one of Gebr Heinemann’s strategically important partners and the opening of the new boutique at Istanbul Airport is a further milestone in the global roll-out of our luxury watches & jewellery concept,” added Heinemann Director Purchasing Watches & Jewellery Olaf Benjamin.
“We are pleased to be opening this new boutique with our valued partner and operator ATÜ Duty Free. The success of our joint venture is owed to the genuine and efficient collaboration between ATÜ, Gebr Heinemann and our brand partner Bvlgari in sharing ideas and creating a shop with a big impact. It extends the line-up of first-tier luxury brands at Istanbul Airport.”
A flagship for Bvlgari
Bvlgari Travel Retail Europe Sales and Marketing Director Roberto Marino said: “This shining gem adds Italian glamour to the whole luxury and fashion shopping experience at the new Istanbul Airport. Before heading to their next destination, passengers are warmly invited to a virtual stopover and time travel into the Eternal City’s treasures and heritage. The VIP lounge inside the boutique is another step towards selling emotions to our customers in an airport environment.”
Pujia said that the addition of a VIP salon elevates the experience, noting that the personalised approach to key consumers would likely encourage higher value transactions.
“We wanted a salon here not only for itself but for the very important sales opportunity. Last week we had a request for a €350,000 piece, and those are the kinds of sales we believe can be made here in future. But you need time and the right environment. That is not a two-minute sale.”
On the offer, Pujia noted: “It’s a well-blended mix between categories. The three legs of the business – jewellery, watches and accessories – are evenly represented, though as we are primarily a jewellery brand that is the star. There is also a variety of price points from entry price to high-end jewellery products. That is one of the successes of this partnership, that we can offer rare and fine products to the customers here.”
“Coloured stones are the core of Bvlgari’s DNA” – Creative Director Lucia Silvestri
The store matched the key criteria Bvlgari seeks in any location, said Pujia. “It has to be the right size, it needs to have the right mix and to offer an experience. This is why we choose to work with ATÜ Duty Free and Heinemann. Productivity per square metre is an important metric for the retailer and for us. We don’t want to be just a cathedral for the brand; this space is efficient and highly productive with a great digital marketing platform out front.”
Arcan added: “With Bvlgari, the signs so far are positive and this good start gives motivation to all the partners. The performance to date is not only due to passenger growth but also down to the right design, service and offer and that is due to Bvlgari and Heinemann. We have elevated the service level and as a result the business has risen above expectations.”
Benjamin told us: “It was always clear to us that Bvlgari is the only brand that excels across all categories. Others do a great job but not many can do so at the highest level across accessories, leathergoods, watches and jewellery. It’s a perfect fit so we had to deliver a great location and one that is working well.
“For the luxury arena here at the airport, it took us time to find the overall solution. In the top rank of luxury brands there are only a few, and Bvlgari is one of them. We had to create an area, which we call Luxury Hill, to house only the very best brands. It wasn’t easy to find space for all of them when so many wanted to be here but in the end we got there. It was a challenge to find the right space for all. Now this area is the Champions’ League of luxury at airports.”
In an important statement about the role of travel retail, Bvlgari and its partners also noted that this store is not just a signature airport boutique but one that stands comparison with the best off-airport locations.
Pujia said: “This business is no longer about traditional B2B distribution, it is about sell-out, with the same training and the same sales tools as the best downtown stores. We consider this location in the same way as we do Rome, Paris or London. The approach is as customer oriented and as relevant now at the airport just as it is downtown.”
He added: “The Istanbul Airport luxury arena is as good as the most famous department stores. The helps the positioning of the airport as a destination and it helps in the minds of customers. We note the high quality and appeal of other brands in this luxury area, but we don’t see this is a threat; rather it reinforces our offer and the overall attraction of the airport.”
Benjamin said: “This is no longer travel retail as we once understood it; this is luxury retail regardless of whether it is at the airport or not. The package as a whole must work. Our benchmark is downtown malls and the best of the high street and this matches those environments in every way.
“We sell pieces in the €50-80,000 range, and that cannot be an instant sale. You have to make it a true retail experience and a showcase that can deliver business. To do that you need the best brands.”
Staff too play a critical part, and here, said Arcan, ATÜ Duty Free sought out the most qualified recruits to tell the Bvlgari story to guests.
“It’s not easy to be at the airport, operationally or with the mindset of the customer amid the stress of travel. You have to reduce the sense of urgency and this environment, accompanied by the right people, makes a difference. It is not something you see everywhere.
“This year marks 20 years of presence in the market for ATÜ Duty Free and we have always felt a responsibility to operate stores professionally on behalf of the brands along with Heinemann. We aim to continue to do that.”
Benjamin said that work would continue to elevate the luxury offer at Istanbul Airport. “The vision was to have the perfect, rounded offer for all customers, Turkish and international, so we don’t focus on just a few. We have a varied customer base and so we have entry price points right up to high luxury. That was the right vision. We see that top luxury outperforms other brands in many markets and that is reinforced here. More than that, though, the word is out. People are changing their flight behaviour just so they can travel through this environment.
“Some brands are missing but they see what is happening here and now all of them, including those at the very top level, want to be here too.
Arcan added: “Turkish Airlines’ strategy was to encourage all nationalities to fly from this landmark airport. Here we have met with this strategy and found an offer to match their needs. Heinemann has helped us find the right direction and that is key to the bright start here at Bvlgari and in the other stores.”
Soon, the partners will embark on a big communications programme to tell the story of the new offer via their respective channels.
Arcan said: “ATÜ and Heinemann have great knowledge of communicating with travellers internationally. We have implemented the big projects here first and once we have all stores open we will embark on a full communications strategy about this great commercial offer. This will be one of our major goals in 2020.”
On the next steps in the luxury sector for ATÜ Duty Free, Arcan said: “The most exciting project we plan is a prime 900sq m location together with Heinemann here at Istanbul Airport. It will be a department store in the centre of the luxury area, which we will develop hand in hand with the brands. It will be a walk-in zone adjacent to the luxury boutiques and will open by the beginning of next year. That will represent the next level of dynamism in luxury.”
Benjamin added: “This area will be outstanding and unique in the airport world.” On Heinemann’s next big luxury projects, he said: “Istanbul is our most important airport when it comes to luxury. We are working now on Moscow Sheremetyevo Terminal 3, which will represent the next stage for luxury at airports in Russia. We will have brands that have never been in this market, and will feature many top level names, also including Bvlgari.”
Above: A 360-degree panorama of the airside zone, featuring the Bvlgari location, core duty free and other luxury boutiques; Below: A snapshot of our social media coverage at the Bvlgari event in Istanbul Airport
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As a lead partner of The Moodie Davitt Report, this story will also appear in coming days in Chinese and with a consumer voice on fast-growing Chinese B2C WeChat social media account Globuy [玩转全球免税], as part of a new collaboration between Globuy owner Extra-Aile Media in Shanghai and The Moodie Davitt Report.
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