Introduction: In this guest column, Victorinox Head of Global Channels Thomas Bodenmann expresses his excitement for the upcoming TFWA World Exhibition and Conference as a new travel retail industry takes shape. In Bodenmann’s view, Cannes 2.0 will be a showcase for sustainability, partnership and a renewed vigour for innovation.
As always, the travel retail world will descend on Cannes this October, and while much will be familiar – the busy walkways of the Palais, the even busier cafés and restaurants of La Croisette – this year’s TFWA Conference & Exhibition will feel different. After a two-year hiatus, including last year’s smaller scale show, 2022 feels like the most eagerly anticipated event in quite some time. Last year already set the tone for a more business-driven and productive show, and therefore Victorinox is positive to expect more of the same.
As the industry began to emerge from crisis-mode into recovery in 2021, numerous industry commentators offered a variety of recovery timelines and scenarios: few, if any, predicted a return to the pre-pandemic levels of trading as quickly as the industry is witnessing in many locations around the world.
While the ultimate demonstration of recovery lies in the hard numbers, Cannes provides a health check of a different kind. One less easily measurable, but no less exciting, centred on partnership, innovation and consumer-centricity. In a few key areas, I am looking forward to seeing how the industry has evolved in terms of collaboration, what brands are doing to wow consumers, and how we are responding to new dynamics and opportunities.
Partnership & Collaboration 2.0
One of the biggest positives to come out of the challenges of the last few years has been how it has forced a reset and shifted conversations more towards growth and the shopper experience.
The industry is moving towards a fairer financial model where partners within the trinity — brand, retailer and airport — are on a more even footing. Victorinox is confident that this is going to be transformative.
At Victorinox we are reaping the rewards from staying close to our partners while weathering the storm of the pandemic and navigating the challenges together. We committed to truly understanding the needs of our partners, ramping up local activity when no one could travel and adapting creatively to changing conditions. Our enduring collaboration during this period has laid solid groundwork for our business and partnerships in the new era of travel retail.
While Victorinox continues to invest in its partnerships with global retailers, the brand is now also seeing the power of partnerships with niche and regional retailers – organisations such as Tripidi in Europe and Motta in the Americas, as well as Starboard in cruises to name a few. Partnerships like these, where the retailer has in-depth knowledge of a location and its consumers, is a unique concept.
These kinds of partnerships are laser-focused on delivering the best possible retail experience and are incredibly valuable. I hope that this shift towards true partnership and collaboration is here to stay, and becomes the hallmark of conversations between brands and partners during the week.
Product innovation that invigorates the channel
In the post-pandemic shake-up, many retailers and airports started to realise the importance of differentiation in their offers. In many duty free stores over the years, there was always a sense of deja-vu: the same brand mix in the same core-category configuration, with the usual names filling out the prime spaces. The sense of surprise and discovery was, all too often, missing.
This year at Cannes, I’m really excited to see the new brands looking to make a push into travel retail and bring freshness and flair to the channel. Our industry is an eco-system that is at its best when it is diverse and dynamic.
While Victorinox is not a new brand to the channel, it is well established on a global level due to the Swiss Army Knife. The breadth of the brand’s multi-category portfolio still surprises both consumers and retailers.
Fostering a sense of exploration and discovery is key, and Victorinox’s core vision of a being a premium multi-category Swiss brand has supported the diversification of its business. The brand has strengthened its presence at all levels – airports, border stores and, more recently, expanding into the cruise channel.
To further drive this expansion, Victorinox has a strong pipeline of innovation to showcase in Cannes – from new watches and fragrances to striking new colourways in its most iconic travel gear range. The brand is keen to contribute to a travel retail offer that delivers newness and excitement across all channels.
Sustainability and authenticity go hand-in-hand
Sustainability has also been widely discussed, but this seems to be just one part of a trend towards consumers aligning with brands that represent their values and which are authentic.
As a family owned company run in the fourth generation, Victorinox has always focused on doing business in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. Innovative projects help the company use resources ecologically and ensure environmentally sound production processes. Victorinox uses 95% recycled steel, since recycled steel requires less energy in the processing stage. On the roof tops of most company buildings, photovoltaic systems are installed which compensate 500 tons of CO2 every year.
Cannes is going to be brimming with messages and innovation around sustainability, and that bodes well for our industry’s future.
Since TFWA is ‘by the brands, for the brands’, it makes sense that it will primarily be suppliers showcasing their green credentials, but the next evolution in sustainability is going to be around how retailers support consumers in making more sustainable choices in-store. There’s been a few interesting early initiatives in this space, but it might be a huge opportunity for the industry to emphasise its sustainability credentials and another way in which retailers can help brands shine.
Having spoken with many peers from within the industry, I know this sense of anticipation for the forthcoming week in Cannes is widely shared. That’s a testament to the widespread belief in our channel and the ability of our industry to continually adapt and thrive. After what feels like far too long, I personally cannot wait to see further evidence of this in October.
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