Our newest reporter, Judy Free, is on a mission to virtually circumnavigate the globe. Find out more here

In a small but significant way, a trip around London is like a trip around the world. Each neighbourhood is filled with unique microcosms and every corner breathes a colourful kind of authenticity.

Only in London do you see gilded theatre halls alongside graffiti-strewn walls. Only in London do you hear at least five different languages on your way to work — so much so that it feels like a city of many cities.

Phileas Fogg’s adventure may have begun with a wager, but ours begins a little differently. Our journey is inspired by a thirst to discover not just the many intricacies of London’s culturally rich boroughs, but also the endless intricacies of the world’s diverse nations.

Besides the obvious parallels to Phileas Fogg’s journey, it makes sense that we kick off our journey in Heathrow Airport. After all, it is the main travel hub of one of the world’s most culturally diverse cities.

While Phileas Fogg’s journey definitely didn’t involve passing through a state-of-the-art international airport, I’m kicking off my virtual journey at Heathrow Airport. Winner of the World’s Best Airport Shopping award at the Skytrax 2018 World Airport Awards, Heathrow is faced with the constant challenge of maintaining its reputation as one of the world’s top international travel retail hubs. Accepting the challenge (and threat) of the digital age, the UK’s busiest airport builds on its physical retail offering with a sleek and highly functional e-commerce platform, Heathrow Boutique.

Let’s talk about design…

Any frequent traveller is familiar with the joys of duty free shopping, and Heathrow Airport in particular is renowned for a stellar retail selection and generally high standards of customer service.

A quick look around the home page of Heathrow Boutique reveals a user-friendly interface complemented by sleek web design. Through its scroll-down mobile responsive site, customers can shop a wide selection of Heathrow’s offerings by brand, category, or terminal — depending on their preference. What sets this site apart from some of its competitors, however, is the seamless integration of online and in-store customer service.

Heathrow Boutique, the airport’s e-commerce platform, has the sleek aesthetic of a high-end online retailer.

While you won’t find everything online that you will in-store, the selection is nonetheless impressive and a good way to plan — or begin — your duty free shopping before you travel.

The Heathrow Boutique online concept expands the Heathrow shopping experience. It allows online consumers all the benefits of being in an airport concession, but with the added convenience of exploring Heathrow’s product range from laptop or mobile. Tax free shopping on the go? Yes, please!

The official Heathrow Airport website, however, is a different story. The landing page is more cluttered than the UK skies in mid-summer. You almost don’t know were to look. I guess that with five terminals, 80 airlines and 180 travel destinations, the team at Heathrow has to fit in a lot of functionality — and fast!

Heathrow Airport’s main website could take some tips from its e-commerce sister when it comes to sleek design and user-friendly layout.

Almost every area of the page is a call to action, pop-up ads and windows can be seen throughout the landing page, and scrolling down is almost a sensory explosion of offers, brand partners, advertisements and tabs. We all know that a landing page is the store front of 2018 – so it makes sense to make it as attractive as possible. It seems that a quick design refresh is in order.

The first step would be to mirror the same clean and minimal aesthetic of Heathrow Boutique, which is miles ahead of any of its peers in terms of both design and functionality.

A+ online service and good old (virtual) English hospitality

If there’s one thing that the British do well, it’s customer service. A couple of years living in London and travelling anywhere makes you immediately miss the many conveniences of the British capital. Comprehensive public transport, an almost universal cashless payment system, and good old English politeness make London one of the easiest cities to visit.

Travel retail customer service has made several significant strides over the years, but at Heathrow Boutique such progress extends beyond the limits of the shop floor and into the digital world. Services include Personal Shopping, Reserve and Collect, and Collect on Return. (The latter saves precious baggage allowance and also avoids the need to carry your shopping all the way through to boarding!)

Keep up with Judy’s journey via Instagram and Facebook.

We can only hazard a guess when it comes to Jean Passepartout’s personal styling ability. After all, how much shopping can you get away with when circumnavigating the globe by boat or steam train? Luckily, with the help of Heathrow Boutique’s Personal Shopping Service, these days we can easily travel the world in style.

Online customers can book appointments with accredited stylists through the website’s personal shopping service. Bookings can be made up to 48 hours in advance, after which you’ll have a consultation with a stylist (via e-mail or phone, whichever suits you best). A dedicated stylist will then meet you after you’ve cleared security, guiding you through a tailor-made shopping plan.

Judy knows a spot-on handbag when she sees one and she’s got her eye on the Bulgari exclusive at Heathrow Boutique.

For those who arrive three hours prior to their departure time, Heathrow Boutique’s Terminal Shopping Transfer service also allows them to transfer to other terminals in order to visit shops not available in the terminal they are travelling from.

Heathrow Boutique’s Home Delivery Service allows customers to experience duty free airport shopping without leaving the comfort of their own homes. Changing consumer perceptions that airport shopping is limited to airports alone, this service takes travel retail from the departure area straight to their doorsteps. It makes it insanely easy for shopaholics (like yours truly) to make the most of every opportunity to treat ourselves to another tax-free purchase.

Exclusive to Heathrow Boutique

Heathrow Boutique also offers exclusive products, and I’ve definitely got my eye on the luxury Bulgari Serpentine leather backpack from the Heathrow Boutique exclusive range.

It features palladium hardware and Bulgari’s iconic snake clasp enclosure in black and enamel, and is imbued with the brand’s timeless style and exquisite attention to detail. The backpack is made in extremely limited quantities and only available online in Heathrow Boutique and at the Bulgari concession in Heathrow Terminal 5.

The expansive product range is also definitely worth mentioning. Missoni, Stella McCartney, Bulgari, MaxMara, Paul Smith, Reiss, and Dunhill are just a few of over 300 shops and lounges available at Heathrow Airport and online.

Judy’s Favourite Shop

A savvy online shopper like myself knows that there’s no better feeling than getting a Tax-Free bargain at the airport. Shopping tax-free can mean hundreds of pounds worth of savings — especially when it comes to big ticket luxury purchases.

If you’re in Terminal 2,3, or 4 – do check out the boutique of British label Mulberry. Here you’ll find the Mulberry classics, such as the Bayswater and the Lily. You can also get your hands on some of Creative Director Johnny Coca’s new season designs, including the Marloes Satchel and the Mini Seaton.

A Sampling of Hampering at Fortnum & Mason

If you’re looking for the perfect tea-break to recharge after a heavy afternoon of travel retail shopping, have a taste of one of London’s finest afternoon tea menus at Fortnum & Mason.

The fine food specialist has been feeding hungry explorers for over a hundred years, and Heathrow is home to both a Fortnum & Mason boutique (its first airport standalone) and a café too.

The latter offers the delectable Hampering Menu: portable ‘cabin-friendly’ versions of Fortnum & Mason world-famous hampers. The Foie Gras Caviar and Smoked Fish Plate is a trusty classic which you can enjoy both on the ground and in the sky. It’s the perfect foodie stop to kick off our grand adventure around the world.

Heathrow Style

While airport style is usually an avenue that’s used and abused by the paps when trying to capture celebrities post long-haul flight, it’s become a fun little concept that Heathrow Airport has embraced just in time for London fashion week. Ever wonder how the fashion elite travel? Check out Lucinda Chamber’s look below. For those not in-the-know, Lucinda Chambers was British Vogue’s Fashion Director for 25 glorious years — defining the style of an entire generation. Heathrow Style brings our street-style obsession into the departures area. Heck, you can even shop Lucinda’s look online. Now that’s clever.

Beyond the Pixels: Jo Malone’s Travelling Townhouse

While a virtual romp around one of the world’s biggest airports is a great way to explore what’s on offer at Heathrow, there’s still something special about experiencing the magic yourself. If you find yourself in Heathrow Terminal 2 between now and February 2019, don’t forget to pop into Jo Malone’s Travelling Townhouse. The six-metre tall installation is a miniature recreation of Jo Malone’s very own Georgian Townhouse flagship store in London. While not exactly true to size (but as close as you can get inside an airport) the installation is decorated with 158 hand-crafted Jo Malone London gift boxes, each wrapped up with the brand’s signature black bow.

Like stepping into a very large and very fragrant doll’s house, passengers can climb into the boxes to play a large-scale digital game with the opportunity of winning a special gift, redeemable with a £50 purchase.

The Travelling Townhouse is only the beginning of six months of fun and user-friendly activations from Jo Malone. Another is the launch of Blossom Girls, a new range of zesty limited-edition colognes, followed by the launch of the Honeysuckle & Davana fragrance, and finally the much-awaited Christmas campaign. Even if you’re not up for playing games in the Travelling Townhouse, it’s still worth dropping by for a cheeky selfie.

Heathrow, it’s been fun… but we’re just getting started. Next stop: Paris Charles de Gaulle.

Goodbye Heathrow and Bonjour Paris! 

What makes Heathrow Boutique such a fantastic e-commerce site? It’s actually quite simple. At the heart of Heathrow Boutique is the same dedication to customer service that has made Heathrow Airport one of the world’s best airport shopping destinations. Heathrow Boutique’s online retail concept takes several cues from luxury online e-commerce and combines all the advantages of duty free airport shopping with the flexibility of online retail.

This careful blend of curated brand offerings, holistic service, and great user experience is tied together by a genuine understanding of the demands of today’s digital consumer. It redefines the travel retail experience for Heathrow travellers, both online and in real life. Kudos Heathrow Boutique!

As we wave dreary Autumnal London behind, we make our way across the English channel and into the City of Lights. Beyond the pre-requisite macaron, and maybe a quick pit-stop to the Chanel beauty counter, what will Paris Charles de Gaulle airport have to offer? You’ll have to tune in to find out.

Signing off,

Judy Free

*Footnote: Judy Free is the alter ego of Millennial Hannah Lynn Tan, a London-based fashion and lifestyle journalist. Hannah (pictured below) has worked for Vogue USA, Cent Magazine, Lifestyle Asia, Mega Magazine, and as Features Editor of TWENTY6Magazine for over two years. She is a regular contributor to The Moodie Davitt Report’s fashion, beauty and digital/social media coverage.