French beauty house Guerlain has opened a 20sq m Guerlain Parfumeur personalised pop-up at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), marking the concept’s debut in duty free and travel retail. Further units in key airport hubs are expected to roll out next year.

The name Guerlain Parfumeur is designed to underline the house’s fragrance know-how. It opened on 6 December in the passenger walkway that divides SDA’s (Société de Distribution Aéroportuaire) core-category duty free store serving Terminal 2E’s long haul gates. SDA is the retail joint venture between Lagardère Travel Retail and Paris Aéroport.

Red-ribbon moment: Guerlain Parfumeur is opened in time-honoured tradition. Guy Bodescot, CEO of SDA is on the far right and Guerlain President & CEO Laurent Boillot on the far left.

 The pop-up, which has a three-month run until 1 March, offers a high degree of customisation to travellers via a four-step personalisation. Shoppers first find a fragrance they like via a digital consultation process tied to nosing a wide range of real scent families; picking from an array of coloured or classic ‘bee bottles’ – an icon of the maison; choosing three styles to dress the bottle neck: a ribbon, a tied spiral twist, or a fanned bow; and finishing off with an etched message on the glass.

Heritage and modernity converge in the digital consultation area

A skilled craftsperson is present to hand-make the various neck ties and to underline both the luxury nature of the products and the traditions of Guerlain, whose history dates to 1828. Prices for the fragrance and flacon options range from €99 for Aqua Allegoria Mandarine Basilic (125ml edt) in a coloured bee bottle, to the new Mon Guerlain (1lt edp) in a gold bee bottle for €1,204.

Creating a buzz: Guerlain’s familiar bee bottles are presented in all their glory

The pop-up enjoys a prime position in a terminal whose passenger profile is ideal for the Guerlain portfolio

Strategic roll-out for 190th anniversary

 The Guerlain Parfumeur shop – coming on the back of the brand’s first UK pop-up at London Heathrow T5 for the new fragrance Mon Guerlain – is part of a strategic expansion across all channels and regions. In 2018, the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton brand will celebrate its 190th anniversary.

“We have increased our spend per pax by +15% over the past three years and Guerlain has contributed more to this increase than any other perfume house. The partnership we have with Guerlain is more than a commercial contract – it is about building an adventure together.” – SDA CEO Guy Bodescot

The Paris CDG unit is the first in duty free, but the seventh worldwide following four openings in key Guerlain boutiques in Paris, and one each in Shanghai and Brussels. About 150 more of these perfume-only concepts are planned in the coming decade.

Guerlain’s open-plan pop-up features a digital promotions pillar

“Fragrances no other brand can offer”

Guerlain President & CEO Laurent Boillot is the brains behind the push. At the official launch event this week, he told The Moodie Davitt Report (the only travel retail media present): “We first launched this concept two years ago and we have fine-tuned it to the one that you see at the airport.

Guerlain President & CEO Laurent Boillot: “We have 110 fragrances, which no other brand can offer” [Photo©Kevin Rozario]

“This concept highlights our perfumery DNA and our expertise in customisation. We have 110 fragrances, which no other brand can offer. Of ten people who sit down for a consultation, around five are making a purchase. We expect to open a minimum of ten of these concepts per year over the next five years. For sure airports will be part of the plan.”

Of the 110 fragrances that Guerlain has in its portfolio, 60 are available at the Paris CDG pop-up. The juices can be seen in an eye-catching presentation: a cooled glass-fronted ‘perfume cellar’ – the same as those used to chill wines.

Commenting on passenger reaction at the pop-up’s M Gates location, Guerlain Europe, Middle East and Africa Travel Retail Director Aline Valantin, said: “So far the sales are excellent. Overall, we are ranked number three across all departments. We expect to open this concept – on a permanent basis rather than pop-up form – in five to ten locations in travel retail in the next two years.”

Guerlain Europe, Middle East and Africa Travel Retail Director, Aline Valantin: “We expect to open this concept – on a permanent basis rather than pop-up form – in five to ten locations in travel retail in the next two years.” [Photo©Kevin Rozario]

Guerlain International Director Stéphane Augé: “We want to emphasise our perfume credentials all around the world, with a focus on premium activities, especially in Asia. The Chinese, for example, are very keen to buy these kinds of premium products.” [Photo©Kevin Rozario]

SDA CEO Guy Bodescot was especially upbeat. Speaking at the official opening, he said: “We have increased our spend per pax by +15% over the past three years and Guerlain has contributed more to this increase than any other perfume house. The partnership we have with Guerlain is more than a commercial contract – it is about building an adventure together.”

Colourful customisation options illuminate the pop-up [Photo©Kevin Rozario]

Travel retail is a priority market

Guerlain has made travel retail a priority for expansion and it shows in the numbers. Sales in the channel worldwide rose +21% year-on-year in the ten months to October – which is in line with a bullish target. “This was within our expectations because of the launch of Mon Guerlain and because we have invested heavily in the trade with many animations – and for the first time with massive media exposure,” said Valantin. “Travel retail is key to our growth because we are not just talking about local, but global customers, so it is an effective way to internationalise Guerlain.”

In travel retail, the biggest sales region for the brand is Asia, ahead of EMEA – with the Americas a target for development, given a limited brand presence in the US market. The top five travel retail country markets are South Korea, China, France, UK and Russia.

Terminal 2E’s M gates are an ideal location, given Guerlain’s customer profile. The shopping units and boutiques here are the most high-end at CDG and the gates cater to Air France and SkyTeam alliance partner airlines with high numbers of Chinese, other Asian and American passengers passing the core-category store and the Guerlain unit.

Well-balanced three-axis portfolio

Guerlain is unusual in that it has an equal three-way split of its skincare, make-up and fragrance businesses. While the brand expects this balance to be maintained, under Boillot’s direction it is now fully leveraging its perfume expertise at the high end.

Guerlain International Director Stéphane Augé told The Moodie Davitt Report: “We want to emphasise our perfume credentials all around the world, with a focus on premium activities, especially in Asia, where skincare dominates. The Chinese, for example, are very keen to buy these kinds of premium products.”

Read my lips…

Looking ahead to 2018, Augé added that Guerlain would present a “disruptive” launch in March in the colour segment. It is expected to be a lipstick – a sector that Guerlain claims to have created in the late 19th century with its Forget Me Not launch, plus “a new initiative in September” which is promised to be a blockbuster fragrance.

“Guerlain has always been a pioneer… inventing the first lipstick, the first customised perfume, Eau de Cologne Imperiale, and many other firsts,” said Guerlain International Marketing and Communication Director Margerie Barbès-Petit. “Consumers today are keen on novelties – something disruptive – but also with storytelling, authenticity and heritage.”

The multiple launches next year are part of a so-called ‘roots and wings’ development plan. It’s a nice phrase that marries Guerlain’s international ambitions with its long and proud heritage.

Guerlain International Marketing and Communication Director Margerie Barbès-Petit: “Consumers today are keen on novelties – something disruptive – but also with storytelling, authenticity and heritage.” [Photo©Kevin Rozario]