THURSDAY, 7 MARCH

A packed (too packed?) conference drew to a close with an energetic presentation from Mike Walsh, author, futurist and CEO of business consultancy Tomorrow. He highlighted some of the technological advances that are shaping business, consumption and everyday life in China and beyond in a robust conclusion to a successful programme.

15.00: A diverse panel session followed, featuring the typically entertaining and enlightening Masanao Tomozoe (second left below), President and CEO of Central Japan International Airport Co (Nagoya); Amsterdam Airport Schiphol Marketing Director Wieke Vrielink; and Eudes Fabre (below right), CEO North Asia, Lagardère Travel Retail.

Destination merchandise at its very best. Lagardère Travel Retail’s All Blacks store at Auckland Airport pays homage to the 1987, 2011, 2015 (and 2019?) Rugby World Cup winners.

14.15: By 2020, China’s Ministry of Transport expects the number of Chinese cruise travellers to reach 4.5 million though penetration rates are currently very low. MSC Cruises Head of Retail Adrian Pittaway and Rajshree Dugar, Associate Director Corporate Strategy & Business Development at Heinemann Asia Pacific led a stimulating session focused on one of the fastest-growing sectors in Chinese tourism.

Rajshree Dugar: The Chinese cruise retail market is growing fast but has a very different shopping mix profile to airports.

The market, while valuable, is still in its infancy.

In an insightful address Adrian Pittaway highlighted the experiential nature of cruise retailing. Like Ms Dugar, he emphasised the specificity of the product mix with fashion, accessories, watches and jewellery to the fore.

12.15: Wow. Surely one of the most dynamic, information-packed (to the point almost of overload) presentations of any industry conference. A masterclass in understanding the Key Opinion Leader (KOL) phenomenon in China, a dynamic that has played such a critical role in travel retail over recent years. Superb stuff from KOL expert Hu Yuwan, Chief Operations Officer of Daxue Consulting.

What are ‘water military’ and ‘zombie fans’? Beware of the fake KOL.

11.30: Another solid session in what has been a top-class conference. This one featured Dr Lianping Ren, Assistant Professor, Institute for Tourism Studies; and Sunil Tuli, Managing Director, King Power Group (HK) and focused on the huge opportunities being offered up by China’`s booming domestic travel sector.

King Power Group (Hong Kong) painted an upbeat picture of domestic travel retail opportunities in China, a sector in which the Antares Cheng-led firm has long enjoyed a powerful position.

Dr Lianping Ren, Assistant Professor, Institute for Tourism Studies.

10.50: A brilliant presentation by Dufry CEO Asia, Middle East, Australia and Eastern Europe Andrea Belardini, who examined the multiple ways that Dufry is seeking to engage more with the consumer. The world travel retail giant is increasingly partnering with various companies that have a more direct relationship with the traveller, ranging from travel agencies to service providers. It has also developed its own Blog-like platform, called Forum, to inform and engage its consumers.

Andrea Belardini: An outstanding analysis of how Dufry is evolving to foster a more intimate and engaging relationship with its consumers.

New partners for a new era.

This image highlights some of Dufry’s key focus areas as it evolves its offer – and approach – in a fast-changing world.

Direct communication with the consumer: Dufry has developed a blog-like solution to help communicate its offer to consumers in an engaging and informative fashion. Forum by Dufry will be extended to a Chinese language version in the next quarter and will also be rolled out across social media.

The fusion between the digital and the physical is integral to how Dufry is nurturing its relationship with the travelling consumer.

Asked by moderator John Rimmer for his views on Chinese price comparison app Jessica’s Secret, Belardini was critical of a proposition that he said
was “conceptualised on a race to the bottom”, i.e. its focus on comparing prices across travel retail (and domestic) locations. An interesting perspective, although it is clear from the surging popularity of Jessica’s Secret that Chinese consumers still consider price as a critical purchase driver.

10.05: Ann Lee, author of the book What The US Can Learn From China, leads off day two. She presents a fascinating insight into the way the world is conducting business with China, particularly an “insular” US. Timely stuff given today’s dramatic news that Chinese technology giant Huawei is suing the US government, challenging its ban on federal agencies buying the company’s products.

WEDNESDAY, 6 MARCH

The final session of the day was one of the best, featuring two companies whom The Moodie Davitt Report has profiled extensively in recent weeks. Mirko Wang is the founder and CEO of shopping comparison app Jessica’s Secret and Robert Lee, Chairman of China National Service Corporation (CNSC), the Sinopharm-owned Chinese travel retailer that is driving an ambitious expansion of its downtown and airport arrivals business across China.

We will bring you a full report on this compelling session soon.

A secret no more: Mirko Wang has developed Jessica’s Secret into a hugely popular price comparison app for Chinese consumers.

The Jessica’s Secret Index, in association with The Moodie Davitt Report, is a useful indicator of demand among Chinese consumers.

Robert Lee is leading CNSC into an exciting expansion phase.

14.30: In the first of two sessions dubbed ‘Understanding Young China’, NPD Travel Retail Research Director Stephen Hillam presented findings of a new research study commissioned by TFWA and APTRA to explore the trends, perceptions and expectations of young (18-30) Chinese consumers. Hillam introduced a neat phrase – “differentiated familiarity” – to underline the fact that this generation of Chinese travellers increasingly seek out distinctive products (travel-retail exclusives, for example) but ones linked to credible brands of proven quality, provenance and authenticity.

Cartier International Travel Retail Director Cécile Naour spoke eloquently about the French luxury house’s whole-hearted comeback into the channel after a period of having stepped back due to concerns over the restraints of the airport retail environment. “It’s not a question of generation,” she said, in debunking the myth that millennials largely do not buy luxury, “It’s a question of discovering the brand.”

Cartier International Travel Retail Director Cécile Naour and NPD Travel Retail Research Director Stephen Hillam (right) discuss the TFWA and APTRA research study with moderator John Rimmer. “It’s not a question of generation,” said Ms Naour in highlighting the fact that millennials are actually a core customer segment for the French luxury house.

In fact, 40% of Cartier’s sales are to this generation and in travel retail the ratio steps up to 50%. Moreover, the most dominant Cartier consumer in travel retail is a Mainland Chinese woman aged between 20 and 35.

Commenting on the role of price in consumer perception, Ms Naour said that a central tenet of Cartier’s approach under the leadership of CEO Cyrille Vigneron (since 2016) is a “fair price” for all customers globally. Such a policy ensured the brand could instead focus on factors such as service, experience and in-store environment, she said. “The exceptional, the unexpected and the surprising”, were all key elements of a luxury brand’s ability to stay relevant across generations, she surmised.

Ms Naour picked up on Hillam’s “differentiated familiarity” term, noting that this important convergence could be reinforced with high-class, personalised service before, during and post a customer’s purchase. [We will bring you more on Ms Naour’s comments in our extended report on China’s Century in our May Print and Online Magazine to be published during TFWA World Exhibition in Singapore.]

12.10: The final session pre-lunch was one of the day’s best as Hangzhou International Airport Deputy General Manager David Jea (pictured below right) and Xi’an Xianyang International Airport Deputy General Manager, Chief Operations Officer & Chief Commercial Officer Heinrich Gabel (centre). Both are gateways to dynamic, fast-growing cities and both are playing a pivotal role in driving inbound tourism. The cities’ airports are among China’s fastest-growing and both have exciting retail plans (look out for our full report to follow).

11.30: Kevin Guo (below),General Manager of Strategic Cooperation and Marketing Innovation at China’s largest online travel agency Ctrip, talked about the rapid evolution of the outbound tourism market. He covered changing priorities in travel, including a much greater focus on experiential moments, and new destination preferences.

10.05: WeChat Pay International Business Development Director Stephanie Du (pictured below) delivered a compelling address that underlined the enormous rise of the WeChat platform and its fundamental importance to the role of millions of travelling Chinese shoppers. The multi-purpose app has over 1 billion monthly active users. Moderator Trevor Lai raised laughter in the audience when he said that Ms Du had declared the pre-We Chat era as “ancient times”.

“The daigou business is only good for the brands.” – Charles Chen

10.13: In a riveting moment, Chen slams the growth of the daigou business and questions the stance of those many brands who have benefited from this unofficial phenomenon since the THAAD row between South Korea and China started in March 2017. “I’m not so happy with the daigou business,” he says. “I want to say something to the brands… you should be very cautious about daigou.” Chen says that around half of the Korean duty free business in beauty products last year was generated by daigou traders [the figure is probably even higher -Ed]. He warns that it is short-term business that benefits only the brands and does nothing for the business as a whole. Breaking news: China Duty Free Group set to increase its downtown footprint with multiple openings across Hong Kong, Macau, Beijing and elsewhere. 10.06: An interesting observation here that underlines the official Chinese view about maximising domestic consumption. “When I look at South Korea [duty free], I always say that half of the business actually belongs to China because they are Chinese customers,” says Chen. 10.02: China Duty Free Group is to open new downtown stores in Hong Kong, Macau, Beijing and other Chinese cities, Chen reveals, with plans for further openings abroad also in the pipeline. [The Mainland stores will initially serve foreign customers, Chen told The Moodie Davitt Report, though it is hoped that they will eventually be also able to cater to Chinese consumers. The Beijing store will be the first of the Mainland stores to open, he said, probably as early as this May. Others will follow in Dalian, Qingdao and Shanghai. As revealed by The Moodie Davitt Report, China Duty Free Group is about to open a multi-brand perfumes & cosmetics store in Tung Chung, Hong Kong.]

Charles Chen chats with Martin Moodie at the China’s Century Conference.

09.50: Chen reveals that Hainan’s total duty free sales exceeded US$1.5 billion last year, of which CDFG’s Haitang Bay stores contributed US$1.1 billion. 09.30: Now it’s time for the highlight of the conference – the presentation by China Duty Free Group President Charles Chen. Expect some excellent insights and pointers on the direction of Chinese duty free. Breaking news: Two more offshore duty free stores to open in Hainan. 09.15: In a powerful address, Wang Huiping Secretary of the Leading Party Members Group and Director of Department of Finance, Hainan Province reveals that two further offshore duty free licences will be granted this year on Hainan Island. They will open in November this year. Wang also comments on the explosive growth of offshore shopping over recent years and says that policies will continue to be developed to aid the sector’s growth. 09.10: Hainan Province Deputy Director of Department of Commerce Yao Lei speaks about Hainan’s emergence as an economic powerhouse within China’s fast-growing economy of recent years. “Hainan is a pioneering area within the next stage of the opening up of China’s economy,” he says. 09.05: Overall a pithy and articulate presentation from Maingreaud, who touched not only on the predictable (China’s booming outbound tourism sector; and the related growth of its offshore and traditional duty free business) but also the issues the industry faces (is daigou trading actually compatible with an industry that prides itself on personal engagement with shoppers?). 08.45: Newly elected TFWA President Alain Maingreaud (below) gives his first conference address in his new role. He welcomes delegates and pays tribute to his predecessor Erik Juul-Mortensen. “Filling Erik’s shoes will be far from easy,” he notes. Maingreaud highlights the choice of Hainan as the location for this year’s event, noting the tremendous success China Duty Free Group has had at its acclaimed Haitang Bay retail complex. 08.30: Moderators John Rimmer and Trevor Lai, a dynamic duo who always handle this event with great aplomb, lead off the conference with a warm welcome to delegates and a thank you to sponsors. TUESDAY, 5 MARCH China’s Century Conference, organised by TFWA in partnership with the Asia Pacific Travel Retail Association (APTRA), kicked off with a spectacular Opening Cocktail held on the beach at Shangri-La Sanya Resort & Spa last night. Today the conference gets underway with a packed programme highlighted by a keynote address from China Duty Free Group President Charles Chen. The Moodie Davitt Report Founder & Chairman Martin Moodie will bring you regular updates via this page.

(Left to right) Jonathan Holland of Jonathan Holland & Associates (in all black, the colours of the next Rugby World Cup champions); Sue Lewis, Sisley; and Martin Moodie are greeted in style by the event hostesses.

Don’t try this at home: Delegates were treated to some spectacular entertainment.

This is what you call a warm welcome from TFWA President Alain Maingreaud.

Martin Moodie with the team from Jessica’s Secret, the price comparison app that is proving a smash hit with Chinese consumers.

Rémy Cointreau’s Ryan Hill and Blubell’s Suzy Jeong. Bluebell will now represent the Rémy Cointreau portfolio in Korean duty free – the distribution powerhouse’s first foray into the liquor business.

Helen Wong, recently promoted to Head of Global Travel Retail at Daniel Wellington.

Martin Moodie with Sisi Zhang, Jiaqi Luo and Kan (Arthur) Cong of Extra-Aile Media, the company behind fast-growing We Chat platform Globuy that aims to become China’s most influential travel retail KOL.