CHINA. Yesterday (30 November) was a red-letter day for China Duty Free Group (CDFG) as it soft opened its duty free store on the Costa Cruises vessel Costa Atlantica.

As revealed by The Moodie Davitt Report, CDFG won the onboard retailing contract after a hard-fought international tender. The deal formed part of a wider memorandum of cooperation with Costa Cruises’ parent Carnival Corporation, paving the way for an extensive partnership between the two organisations.

The contract is an important breakthrough for CDFG, marking the first time it has directly operated a retail business on an international cruise ship.

Customers make a beeline for high-demand beauty products, including Estée Lauder, Dr.Jart+, Clinique, Lancôme, La Praire, Sisley, SK-II, Whoo and YSL.

CDFG’s soft opening was notable for the presentation of a new retail image developed specifically for this business. The retailer described the contract as “a new chapter” in its duty free development.

China has become one of the fastest-growing emerging markets in the booming global cruise industry.

This image reflects the high onboard demand for duty free goods from Chinese cruise customers.

Costa Atlantica, built in 2000, can carry 2,680 passengers. The ship’s facilities include 12 passenger decks, three cross-deck theatres (1,180 seats), multiple restaurants and bars, three swimming pools, an integrated sports field, an outdoor jogging track, a fitness centre, internet café, library, shopping centre, playroom, and a gaming venue.

This image from China Duty Free Group President Charles Chen’s speech at the recent Trinity Forum in Shanghai, underlines why the travel retailer is so excited about the cruiseline opportunity.

CDFG’s shop is located on the third deck. It comprises a perfume & cosmetics area; a boutique accessories zone; a tobacco, wines & spirits section; a food offer; and a 400sq m-plus specialty store. Over 2,500 products are on offer, ranging from watches to accessories; skincare to high-end tobacco and alcohol.

CDFG said that it is offering a “comprehensive duty free shopping environment” backed by full product guarantees and high-class, personalised service.

High-end Chinese liquors are integral to the offer.

The store design promotes an “immersive and interactive shopping experience”, CDFG said, one that is in harmony with the ship’s Italian design elements. Features include Carrara marble (a high-quality marble popular in sculpture and architecture) that forms an ornate corridor, and the use of mosaic masonry throughout the store. “The inlays make customers feel like they are in Venice,” CDFG commented.

Promotions are central to the retail proposition. Each month will bring new campaigns for selected duty free products. To mark the opening, CDFG is offering a range of discounts and gifts with purchase.

An exclusive WeChat public account will be launched soon, enabling communication of brand, event information, and exclusive offers to customers before and during their journeys.

The Costa Atlantica contract paves the way for further retail expansion by CDFG with the cruise giant.

CDFG said that cruise retailing is a major new duty free channel that it will concentrate on increasingly in the future. CDFG’s ultimate parent, China National Travel Service Group Corporation, is also focusing on the cruise tourism market, CDFG noted.

“Supported by our parent company, CDFG will accelerate its expansion into retailing on other cruise ships in the future,” it commented. “We will strive to become a world-class cruiseline duty free operator to provide consumers with richer and more valuable shopping services.”