By Fabio Bernardini
We are now a week removed from the excitement of the latest edition of the Cannes and the TFWA World Exhibition. So, what did we really learn at what was in reality the first ‘full’ event since the pandemic? And what did it tell us about how out industry will work in the future?
Before the event, we at 2.0 & Partners were among a number of people calling for actions and evidence on the French Riviera this year, rather than idle talk. I think, on reflection, we are moving in the right direction – and that is good to see.
Growth is back & the industry looks different
With almost 6,000 people counted visiting the exhibition as the event entered its final afternoon on Thursday – a 77% increase on 2021 – we can see that the enthusiasm for the event and the travel retail market is undoubtedly back. What is more, to my eye, the delegates in attendance were a good image of the market today. Europeans and Americans dominated, while the Chinese were there in smaller numbers. This created a strong opportunity for meaningful planning and change, rather than idle speculation on what might be if or when other customers arrive.
Walking around the conference centre – and events along the Croisette – there was a palpable buzz of excitement and renewal, along with the presence of fresh brands which all generates a hope that the market desperately needs today.
Covid shapes the market but does not define the future
The message, it seems, was that the pandemic is not gone, but the desire to move on and build a future is strong. Many brands were in attendance showcasing new releases, but there were also a strong number re-presenting the 2021 launches which have not yet had an opportunity to make a meaningful mark on the market. The move towards growth is evident in the fact that many brands were talking about opening new stores as much as new products. This was not just a showcase of a new item; it was a platform to demonstrate growth and dedication to this unique market.
Meaningful discussions = Real change
It was also refreshing to see the change in the industry being recognised on every level. TFWA President Erik Juul-Mortensen highlighted the growing importance of Indian travelling shoppers and the need for excellent brand ambassadors in-store as he took to the stage, which is excellent news. Giving vital subjects like this a platform is exactly what the TFWA Conference should be for.
This was backed up by actual evidence of talk in action. The collaborations and unions between Dufry and Autogrill and Lagardére’s Extime project with Aéroports de Paris were rightly held up as examples of companies acting on the long-held demand for closer working relationships in the wake of the pandemic.
This is what the stage at events such as the TFWA Conference should be used for. To highlight the best way forward with good examples and actionable advice, not simply to praise your own brilliance.
There were, of course, some of the usual ideas on the table too. Juul-Mortensen called out the ongoing problems with data-sharing and the AFCOV event later in the week raised the long-standing challenge of arrivals duty free in Europe.
Hopefully by next year there will be real solutions on the table in these fields too.
The power of a true brand experience
For me, the star of the conference was Rituals CEO Raymond Cloosterman. Speaking from a position of real authority, he showcased the very real importance – and benefits – of building a brand, not just a retail business. This is an idea which will become increasingly important in the years to come and one all should heed.
He also demonstrated the power of adopting omnichannel early and putting sustainable ideas first. While many brands have taken to the stage in Cannes, it was refreshing to see someone demonstrating excellence in a tangible and accessible way. We need more of this please.
A sustainable approach must be sustained
While sustainability was a big topic on the stage – and on most stands – it appears the Cannes event itself has some work to do in this regard. I saw many people walking around with masses of paper bags from brand (not all of which looked completely recyclable). At the end of the week this manifested as piles of abandoned bags in corners of the conference centre. This surely must be improved on for the future.
This event was truly a good foundation for the future of our industry, but the proof will be in whether the challenges highlighted and discussed this year have found solutions.
Now, more than ever, we as an industry must keep moving forward. To borrow a phrase from Raymond Cloosterman: “New customers demand new solutions.”