By Marco Passoni
As I write this, I am waiting to board a plane after three busy but insightful days at the Trinity Forum in Hong Kong, hosted by The Moodie Davitt Report. The discussions and presentations during the event have been first class, with fascinating insights and ideas presented by experts and innovators in their fields. This is why I believe the Trinity Forum is the most useful event in the – packed – travel retail calendar.
Across the three days, we have heard and seen plenty of talks on vital subjects that are shaping the present and the future of this industry; on how to increase airport customer experience by emphasising local culture and sense of place, alongside the importance of differentiation, exclusivity and enhanced dining experiences, the importance of technology integration and luxury offerings and, of course, sustainability. However, in the midst of all this, I have been surprised and, to be honest, concerned, to see one topic still largely overlooked: PRICE.
On the rare occasions that price was raised during the discussions, it seemed to be dismissed and swept away. The implication was clear: Thank goodness price is not the only driver for consumers. There seems to be an idea that providing a price advantage in travel retail is at odds with the other concepts which we celebrate and use to shape our market, or, even worse, that it degrades the retail experience. This idea is fundamentally wrong. Price is not opposed to these other ideals, such as experience and assortment, it stands alongside them in ensuring the travel retail sector is a unique market which captures shoppers’ attention.
Price has been the trademark and a central pillar of our market since the very start, and it remains one now, whether we like it or not. Many of us in travel retail might want to (wrongly) sweep price under the carpet to talk about more glamorous trends, but ask any shoppers if they think prices in airports are competitive. I promise you they don’t – and it is their impression of our industry that matters. What is more, today’s shoppers are looking for a price advantage everywhere. They are connected and checking prices at every turn. If travel retail throws away one of its most valuable selling points, then another market will take it up, and that is bad for our future.
However much we might not like talking about it, the price benefit in travel retail is something we must all properly engage with – or we risk losing out in a big way.
This is especially vital as we have an incredible opportunity ahead of us. During the Trinity Forum, we saw the size of that opportunity, with the promise of 19.3 billion passengers travelling in the coming years. Imagine what we can create with and for a market like that. Young travellers too are already engaged and want to shop in our market. This positive message was all over the Trinity Forum, but price was somehow absent, in a way that seems like it is something to be ashamed of. To hope to build a bright future while discarding one of our key pillars is simply madness and I implore all stakeholders to take this seriously and put price at the heart of your plans, alongside experience, exclusivity and assortment. If we want to win the shoppers of the future, we have to know who we are.