SOUTH KOREA. L’Oréal Travel Retail Asia Pacific made a bold statement on Tuesday by launching its first ever pop-up in the region for the Helena Rubinstein brand.

The event sets in train what is expected to be a wave of interest in the super-premium skincare house.

“Helena Rubinstein’s sales have increased by more than 100% for us this year compared with last year” – The Shilla Duty Free Executive Vice President Korea Division Travel Retail Business Taeho Kim

Yeong Bin Gwan, the elegant hanok-style house between The Shilla Hotel and the company’s flagship duty free store was the location for Helena Rubinstein’s first travel retail pop-up in Asia Pacific [All pictures: Kevin Rozario]

At the launch, The Shilla Duty Free Executive Vice President Korea Division Travel Retail Business Taeho Kim said: “Congratulations (to L’Oréal) on this wonderful event through which I can see Helena Rubinstein’s desire and conviction for success. The brand’s sales have increased by more than 100% for us this year (to date) compared with last year… and we look forward to continuing this successful partnership.”

The three hero products that will define the Helena Rubinstein brand in Asian travel retail [click to enlarge]

L’Oréal Travel Retail Asia Pacific General Manager for Kiehl’s, Helena Rubinstein and Urban Decay Petrina Kho added: “This is the very first time we are doing a travel retail event for Helena Rubinstein in Asia and it would not have been possible without Shilla.”

When asked by The Moodie Davitt Report why Helena Rubinstein has grown so fast this year, Kim said: “There is more demand for the brand and its products right now. With a bigger push behind Helena Rubinstein from L’Oréal we are seeing greater awareness from Koreans and Chinese overall.

“Customers are realising it’s a very high-end skincare brand and it’s achieving some of the best growth in our skincare portfolio. The HR Powercell franchise in particular has seen strong demand.”

Momentum is building

A number of factors have come together behind Helena Rubinstein in travel retail. Major skincare brands are showing strong growth in the Korean downtown duty free market – driven by Chinese spending – particularly at the luxury end.

Meanwhile in the South Korean domestic market Helena Rubinstein made its debut in October and it is also now launching in the Taiwan domestic market – where the brand is yet to open up the travel retail channel. Last week L’Oréal also officially announced Hong Kong-based Chinese singer-songwriter actress Faye Wong (Chinese name 王菲) as the ambassador of the brand.

The local market presence will be an engine for travel retail sales by departing South Koreans. However, Kho told us: “The South Korean domestic market launch will be a boost for us but in duty free our target consumers remain predominantly Chinese travellers.

“The KOLs (key opinion leaders) we invited for today’s launch were predominantly Chinese,” said Kho. “The Chinese know the Helena Rubinstein brand in tier one and two cities like Beijing and Guangzhou. Travellers from next tier cities may not have seen Helena Rubinstein counters before so they may be interacting with the brand for the first time here in Korea.”

Three KOLs from Shanghai (above) and their counterparts from elsewhere in China and South Korea (below right) have a crucial role in spreading the Helena Rubinstein story

At the event, the star turn was renowned and much admired 59-year-old veteran Hong Kong actress Cherie Chung (Chinese name 鍾楚紅). Also present were some 32 KOLs, 18 from China and 14 from South Korea. The Moodie Davitt Report spoke to several of the Chinese contingent, several of whom were from ‘next tier’ cities, including Nanjing and Hangzhou as well as from China’s commercial hub of Shanghai.

A toast to continued growth: From left: The Shilla Duty Free International Cosmetics Team Director Yeowool Kim; Head of The Shilla Seoul Duty Free Store Chan Yoo; The Shilla Duty Free Korea Division Executive VP Taeho Kim; Celebrity and actress Cherie Chung; General Manager of Helena Rubinstein Travel Retail Asia Pacific Petrina Kho; Marketing Manager of Helena Rubinstein Travel Retail Asia Pacific Janet Chan; and North Asia Area Manager of Helena Rubinstein Travel Retail Asia Pacific Patrick Kim.

Their role is to help drive conversion by conveying key brand messages to their large social media followings. “The first message would be the avant-garde spirit of the brand,” L’Oréal Travel Retail Asia Pacific Marketing Manager for Helena Rubinstein and Urban Decay Janet Chan told The Moodie Davitt Report. “Because this is the first event for Helena Rubinstein in travel retail we are not talking about just one product but the whole story behind the brand.”

A sampling station at the pop-up (above) and a statement of empowerment from Helena Rubinstein (below)

Getting the timing right

Despite luxury skincare dominating travel retail sales rankings for some time in Asia, L’Oréal had long held back on Helena Rubinstein. Kho said: “The brand is about avant-garde beauty and uber-luxe consultations so it plays in that space, and we are riding that trend now. But we waited until we had three hero products to act as anchors, rather than rushing in. We had two and only launched Prodigy Cellglow this year. That created the right product line-up.”

Kho concluded: “I am very excited for 2020. This is just the beginning and we will go into higher gear next year. L’Oréal has invested a lot to ensure we can win in the premium segment of skincare and Helena Rubinstein will definitely play a role in that.”

Anatomy of a pop-up: driving brand awareness – and spending

The three-day Helena Rubinstein pop-up runs from Tuesday 17 December until Thursday 19 December. It focuses on three core Helena Rubinstein skincare franchises that are being promoted in Asian travel retail: Powercell Skinmunity (skin defense), Prodigy Cellglow (a new glow regimen), and Replasty Age Recovery.

These anchors have top-end price positions ranging from approximately US$195 for Powercell (75ml), US$440 for Cellglow Concentrate (100ml) and US$425 for Replasty Night Cream (50ml). Competitors in this space include La Prairie, La Mer and Clé de Peau Beauté.

Memorable quotes from Helena Rubinstein dominate the showcase

Not surprisingly – given the luxury nature of the products – the event is open to a highly select group of shoppers. General Manager for Kiehl’s, Helena Rubinstein and Urban Decay at L’Oréal Travel Retail Asia Pacific Petrina Kho said: “The people we are inviting here are the highest spenders; it is extremely targeted. Shilla has helped us a lot with that.”

L’Oréal Travel Retail Asia Pacific worked closely with The Shilla Duty Free to ‘interrogate’ its CRM system. The aim was to identify only the best local customers and some of the highest-spending travelling shoppers from China and the region who will be in Seoul during the pop-up period.

Getting to know you: The pop-up explores themes and ideas behind the core franchises (above) before the treatment sessions begin in aircraft-style cabins (below)

Marketing Manager for Helena Rubinstein and Urban Decay at L’Oréal Travel Retail Asia Pacific Janet Chan said: “Today – as well as media and KOLs – we have only invited VIPs from The Shilla’s CRM programme, essentially the top spenders.” Electronic direct marketing and digital media travel platforms have also been used to reach another layer of travelling consumers.

“When travellers come to Korea and open certain platforms they will see the ad and can click to register,” Chan added. The project was planned three to four weeks ahead of today’s launch to attract consumers that were coming to Korea. We’ve had more than 1,000 registrations already.”


Ticket to buy: Exiting the pop-up visitors are tempted to shop at The Shilla Duty Free next door through special promotions

The pop-up – sited in a part of Shilla’s hotel and duty free shopping complex normally reserved for weddings and special occasions – takes a deep-dive into the fascinating story of Helena Rubinstein herself, through to the current products that are building the brand’s name in Asia.

Visitors will be accessing a highly immersive, gallery-like experience that is also hi-tech. Shoppers pass through different parts of the ‘exhibition’ using QR codes and digital scanning to discover more details about the life of Rubinstein as well as the products, through video and other interactions.

The entire process takes the form of a travel journey from check-in through to skin-test and treatment zones set up like first class cabin seats.

On checking out of their beauty adventure, visitors are given the option to go to The Shilla Duty Free shop nearby and purchase any Helena Rubinstein product to get a complimentary beauty kit. Shoppers spending US$630 or US$900 respectively, get special six-piece or nine-piece deluxe travel kits valued at US$255 and US$475 respectively.

Picture Gallery: “The Beauty Adventures of Helena Rubinstein”

The eye-catching pop-up at the Shilla Seoul Hotel in December

L’Oréal Travel Retail Asia Pacific General Manager for Kiehl’s, Helena Rubinstein and Urban Decay Petrina Kho greets guests including The Moodie Davitt Report; below, The Shilla Duty Free Cosmetics & Perfumes Team Director Yeowool Kim adds his welcome

The first class check-in area at the pop-up; below, quotes by Helena Rubinstein

Former actress Cherie Chung graced the event on 17 December

Visitors were invited to check-in through pre-registered digital passports via a mini-site on their mobile phones

Guests were greeted at the First Class check-In reception and welcomed through boarding gates

The journey began at the Heritage Wall with an interactive AR experience

A series of engaging activities introduced guests to the world of Helena Rubinstein

Going strong on Globuy

As a lead business partner of The Moodie Davitt Report, Helena Rubinstein’s story will also appear 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.

Globuy aims to become “the KOL of Chinese travel retail” and already has 400,000 followers and a monthly audience of 1 million views for its WeChat social media platform promoting new launches, product availability, promotions and special offers. Underlining the strong affinity and complementary nature of the two companies work, Globuy has dubbed The Moodie Davitt Report “the KOL of travel retail B2B media”

Under the agreement, selected stories from The Moodie Davitt’s lead brand partners in beauty, fashion, luxury, confectionery and premium spirits are also published by Globuy in Chinese. These include product reviews by the Globuy team.

Globuy is promoting The Moodie Davitt Report’s platform to China’s travel retail sector and to its own consumer audience in China. The Moodie Davitt Report subsequently also publishes a curated selection of Chinese consumer feedback on the chosen stories and will reveal the results of regular consumer surveys conducted in association with Globuy.