TAIPEI. “Connecting Taiwan and the world.” That was the core principle of Ever Rich Duty Free’s mission to reimagine the retail and food & beverage offer at Taoyuan International Airport Terminal 2, the NT$1 billion (US$33 million) first phase of which was inaugurated at a VIP event on Friday.

The result certainly achieved that aim – the retail zone’s startling transformation is a brilliant fusion of local and international, traditional and modern – but it delivered a lot more besides.

Ever Rich Duty Free Founder & Chairman: Simon Chiang: “Ever Rich is always motivated by public service and a belief in giving back to society – that is the most important thing to us”

In a heartfelt speech to guests, who included Taoyuan City Mayor Zhèng Wéncàn (Cheng Wen-tsan) and Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-Lung, Ever Rich Duty Free Founder and Chairman Simon Chiang spoke of the complexities involved in managing such a project within a working airport.

The inauguration featured a stunning performance from the O-Kai Singers, a six-member Taiwanese A Cappella group from the Atayal, Amis and Han indigenous tribes.

Construction took place behind walls and at night to minimise passenger and operational disruption, he pointed out – an expensive process geared to deliver ultimate consumer value. Importantly, he noted, the project was underpinned by clear principles that combined both business and social values.

“Ever Rich is always motivated by public service and a belief in giving back to society – that is the most important thing to us,” Chairman Chiang commented. “We try to market Taiwan to the world while also implementing the Ever Rich belief in integrity, professionalism, charity and innovation.

Ever Rich owners and senior management, Taoyuan International Airport executives and invited VIPS including The Moodie Davitt Report Chairman Martin Moodie give the thumbs up for a job well done

Combining the cultural and the commercial: Magnificent artworks are blended seamlessly into the retail and food & beverage footprint

Taken the morning after the inaguration, this great external image shows the impact of the digital wrap that beckons passengers into the store

“I believe that Terminal 2 represents a whole new picture under Ever Rich’s and everyone’s efforts. I believe that we can raise customer satisfaction, deliver more revenue to the government, provide jobs and take care of our employees while also generating  reasonable profits and therefore allowing us to give back to society and do more charity work – so it is five wins.”

Ever Rich President Kevin Chiang told The Moodie Davitt Report: “We’re not going to have a new airport in Taipei anytime in the coming years, so how do we transform what we have right now and upgrade it and put more elements into it? We tried to create a different concept, especially in the Sense of Place of Taiwan, based on the culture, art and people – which are the best things we can offer.

“It was extremely important for you and the Mayor and the Minister to be here to recognise the capabilities of Ever Rich – and that what we are doing is not just for ourselves, not just for commerce… but about how you can transform a middle-aged airport and how you can create added value for its customers.” [Look out for a full-length interview with Kevin Chiang in a forthcoming special feature, ‘Taoyuan International Airport Transformed’, in The Moodie Davitt eZine].

The Moodie Davitt Report Chairman addresses the audience at the inauguration

Asked to provide an external perspective on the Ever Rich development, The Moodie Davitt Report Founder & Chairman Martin Moodie told the audience: “What really stands out to me about this renovation in Terminal 2 is not only the trademark elegance, high-class design and sophisticated merchandising that Ever Rich brings to play; the impressive use of digital media and new technology; the ease of the walk-through concept designed to give passengers an enhanced shopping flow and experience – but also the rich –  make that the Ever Rich –  focus on local characteristics, culture and art.

“In my mind, the best examples of airport commerce are when the operator successfully blends the international and the local, building on the fact that an airport is a traveller’s first and last experience of a country.

“I believe that Ever Rich has done that triumphantly – and may I say quite beautifully – here in world-class style.”

Simon Chiang (second left), Martin Moodie and Kevin Chiang with two members of the Ever Rich team (note their stylish new uniforms) pictured after a private dinner to celebrate the T2 refurbishment

Simon Chiang makes a special presentation to Martin Moodie, ringed by (left to right) Section Manager Claire Ma, President Kevin Chiang, Vice Chairman Samuel Wu and Managing Director of the President’s Office David Hsiao

“Human-orientated space design dedicated to every detail of space arrangement, visual impression, flow, lighting and human experience,” was how Nick Taylor, Director of London-based The Design Solution, which managed the store design, flow and planning, described the project. In that context, it is worth noting that this was neither a greenfield project nor a straightforward one – T2 is a working, crowded and physically difficult airport with low ceilings and an absence of natural light.

[We will feature more from The Design Solution in a report later this week, while Nick Taylor talks about the design principles that underpinned the project in our forthcoming Taoyuan International Airport Transformed’ eZine].

How then to deliver Ever Rich’s ambitions of elegant world-class retailing infused with a strong Sense of Place? The multiple answers to that conundrum came via a combination of a gently curved walkway through the store (literally mirrored in the ceiling above); a dramatic 50 metre-plus digital wrap;  a focus on sensorial experiences; the introduction of neon signage to encapsulate Taiwanese street culture; some magnificent local artworks; and a heady mix of strongly personalised international brands and beautifully packaged local ones.

Blending the cultural and the commercial: Magnificent artworks are integrated seamlessly into the retail footprint

Neon signage helps capture the eclectic (and electric) spirit of Taiwan

SK-II joins the celebratory spirit with its own vibrant digital presence

The detail and the thought that underpins it is classic Ever Rich. New staff uniforms which combine the contrasting hues of coral pink and deep indigo blue convey Taiwanese hospitality and Ever Rich professionalism, respectively. A pilot’s flying scarf – modelled on The Little Prince – and a chic salesperson’s bag evoke the aviation connections between Taiwan and the world. The combination of neon and digital media is extremely powerful, injecting a contemporary immediacy to a retail offer borne out of traditional values of top-class brands and high-class service.

No-one familiar with the philosophy of Ever Rich Chairman & CEO Simon Chiang and his son Kevin will be surprised that this ambitious retail makeover embraces not just the commercial but the cultural, the traditional and the modern. Taiwanese artist Fan Chengzhong has created a series of giant art installations, including ‘Taiwan Mountain’ and ‘Passengers’, which use traditional thread binding books to illustrate the country’s highest peak, Yushan (also known as Mount Jade) and eight famous world mountains. Together they symbolise that Taiwan plays an important role in honouring Chinese tradition and popular culture, while also showcasing the beauty of Taiwan to the world.

The magnificent Collection of Mountains towers over the nicely understated Diageo unit depicting its single malts from all four corners of Scotland

Multimedia artist Chen Yijie was commissioned to surprise and delight passengers through a series of large digital panels, offering a modern twist to the pervading theme of Taiwanese culture.

There’s plenty else that’s contemporary about the store too with an enduring emphasis on innovative multi-sensory experiences, including a fragrance-identifier programme; tasting opportunities at the cocktail bar and dining areas; and the touch experience of a VR make-up device. Collectively they fulfil Ever Rich’s ambition to “reach customers through all five senses with enthusiasm and joy”.

Customer engagement and sensorial experiences are integral to the retail philosophy

The Moodie Davitt Report Chairman Martin Moodie tries his luck in a game to win a Martell prize

(Above and below) Virtual engagement: Ever Rich Section Manager Claire Ma tries on a range of lipstick colours courtesy of MAC

Public facilities key to inclusive, service-orientated philosophy

Under the terms of its concession, Ever Rich is also responsible for enhancing and operating a wide of public facilities at the terminal, from information desks to washrooms. Gender equality is a hot topic in Taiwan and Ever Rich was keen to demonstrate the value it places on human rights by creating stylish gender-neutral toilets. These embrace smart technology-based washing facilities in keeping with a view that Taoyuan International Airport services should keep pace with the world’s best airports.

Sign of the times: Gender-free toilets underline the inclusiveness of the Ever Rich approach

‘New service, new concept and new image’ – food & beverage taken to new heights

Unusually for an airport duty free retailer, Ever Rich also manages an extensive food & beverage operation at T2. In order to tailor an offer appropriate to the terminal’s passenger profile, the company held numerous discussions with Taiwan’s best restaurateurs and suppliers and subsequently introduced an eclectic array of renowned Taiwanese and other Asian F&B brands. To ensure all tastes are catered for, internationally renowned brands such as McDonald’s, Starbucks and Jambo Juice were introduced in the first quarter of 2019.

And coming soon…

The NT$1 billion (US$33 million) phase one investment follows Ever Rich’s success in winning a hotly contested tender for a new contract last year. Eventually the investment for the T2 reconstruction will climb to around NT$$3 billion (US$98 billion), including the airport corridor redesign; reconstruction of all stores (next up is an extensive Fashion Avenue); the renewal of the acclaimed themed waiting lounges; and the enhancement of various public service facilities.

The hoardings 0ffer a tantalising taste of things to come as a revitalisation of the fashion offer looms. Look out for our coming interview with Kevin Chiang, where he describes how Ever Rich plans to make a big fashion statement at Taoyuan International.

Authentic Taiwanese characteristics will be a key emphasis, including new museum shops, aboriginal and Hakka (Taiwan’s second-largest ethnic group) store. The work of Taiwanese artists will be a constant feature, bolstered by festival events that underline the Sense of Place. “Ever Rich is not just marketing Taiwan to the world, but also connecting Taiwan and the world with a dynamic and abundant binding through this proud project,” the company said.

Footnote: Look out for our special reports in The Moodie Davitt eZine and FAB (our sister title dedicated to airport food & beverage) coming soon.