What's on your TFWA agenda?

Joe Bates asks four duty-free retailers for their views and expectations as regular visitors to the Cannes exhibition
27 August, 2008
Q: How many years have you been coming to the show and what have been the biggest changes to the event in that time?

Thakar: Since 1987. I have never missed a year. There have been some gradual improvements. For instance, now almost everyone at the exhibition speaks English. This wasn't the case in the beginning and is a major improvement for the international community.

Hjartbo: Fifteen years. Honestly, I don't think the fair has changed a lot during this period.

Cheng: Many years. In the old days the shows were dominated by famous big brands. However, there are now many more brands exhibiting, including secondary line brands. There are also many entertainment activities included, which makes the week more fun.

Tappoo: This will be my third year, although our chairman and two other directors have been going to Cannes ever since its inception. The choice of suppliers and offerings seems to get better each year. There seem to be more businesses participating, too.

Q: Given the number of industry exhibitions worldwide - both domestic and duty-free - and the cost involved in attending, is Cannes still good value for money?

Thakar: Cannes is one of the most expensive cities in the world and what we pay are the top prices so I wouldn't say it is good value for money. However, being a glamorous city, it is a good match with the TFWA, which has strong links with the fashion industry.

Hjartbo: Access for buyers is free, so it is obviously good value for money. Whether the fair is good value for money for the exhibitors I don't know. But I suppose it is because they keep coming back. 

The only other tax-free fair I have visited is the one in Florida , and I believe the Cannes fair is much, much better than that. However, MyTravel Airways will be attending other non-tax-free fairs in the future in order to source products that are different from what other duty-free operators are listing and what the domestic Scandinavian market offers.

Cheng: The trade's exhibition calendar is marked with quite a number of events throughout the year, most notably the TFWA exhibitions in Singapore and Cannes.

It's very subjective whether it is good value for money ? exhibitions provide a means for exhibitors to showcase their products and socialise with their business partners, as well as providing exposure for their new products.

Tappoo: The [sales] volume in Fiji is relatively small so we don't get to see the suppliers visiting us often. Therefore this exhibition is an opportunity for us to meet our suppliers and discuss business plans for the year. This is one of the reasons we attend the exhibition.

Fiji is half way around the world from Cannes so the cost is always very high. But because we need to stay in touch with suppliers and discuss business opportunities at least once a year, it becomes value for money for that purpose alone.

Q: What are the big issues affecting your liquor business?

Thakar: I would highlight the attitude of some of the brand owners attending the exhibition. Although the prime reason for them to exhibit is to attract new customers in emerging markets, invariably they treat bona fide duty-free operators like us very shabbily. Maybe it is because we come from a poorer region.

Hjartbo: The biggest issue in this category is the almost total lack of innovation and product development. Some producers seem to think that they can invent a totally new product simply by taking the standard product and adding a few drops from a different barrel and glueing on a new label. In a modern, open-minded world, I do not think this is good enough.

Cheng: Certainly, the economic situation's ups and downs will affect the buying power of customers, which in turn affect the liquor business. However, it is looking good for the category over the next couples of years.

Q: How badly have your stores been affected by the recent aviation security restrictions on liquids, aerosols and gels (LAGs)?

Thakar: Not much because the loss of sales in departures has been compensated for by an increase in sales in arrivals shops.

Hjartbo: We have not been affected by the new security regulations. Most products sold on MyTravel Airways are pre-ordered by the passengers from home and are (since the beginning of the 1980s) pre-packed on the ground and delivered to the consumer in-flight in sealed bags.

Tappoo: We've not been affected too badly. Fiji is a holiday destination and not a transit point. Since the LAG restrictions mostly affects transit passengers, it hasn't affected our liquor sales. In fact, despite the coup in Dec and the LAG legislation, we are showing a healthy growth because of aggressive marketing campaigns and maximi sing passengers' allowance with "two-for" price offers.

Q: What new liquor products will you be look ing for at the show and what would you like to see more of from suppliers in terms of new products and support?

Thakar: We are well set with most of the major brand owners and our business with them is developing very well. Nevertheless, there are some smaller companies out there which have some important brands we need to include in our portfolio to complete the product range. We do look forward to receiving good advertising and promotional support to enhance sales. This varies from company to company, but overall the support is fairly good.

Hjartbo: Innovative white spirits in the €13-€20 retail price range, and new modern strong liqueurs that can be used as drinks mixers. I'd also like to see rare whiskies at affordable prices.

Cheng: We are very receptive to the introduction of new products. Realistically, the effort, investment and time the suppliers put into promoting the new products will positively enhance our consideration of these products.

In terms of the type of support we like, we hope it will be sales driven? stylish marketing efforts, gift-with-purchase and tasting opportunities to promote awareness.

Tappoo: I will not be looking for a lot of new products. Our tourists are predominantly from Australia and New Zealand and they mostly look for good deals on established liquor brands, although we will be looking out for duty-free exclusive offers as well. We'd like suppliers to really get behind promotions. Most of our liquor sales are done through price deals: for example, two bottles for a special price as opposed to a single-bottle purchase.

Q: What advice would you give to a first-time buyer at the show?

Thakar: Patience is the name of the game. First-timers will never get a good response as the brand owners only wish to support big-timers or the very large duty-free operators. Consequently, newcomers must be patient with the brand owners until they have built up some confidence in the buyer.

Hjartbo: Do not book too many appointments - you will end up running from one to another and missing a lot.

Tappoo: Visit as many exhibitors as possible. Also be aware that most exhibitors are aggressive and are looking out for equally aggressive retailers to do large volumes. Keep an eye out for "exclusive for duty-free" offers.

Q: Finally, what places and restaurants do you like to visit while at Cannes?

Thakar: Frankly speaking, our meeting schedule is so tight there is hardly any time for such leisure pursuits. On top of walking all day, the suffocating atmosphere really drains all your energy to the point where I have no strength left for anything except hitting the bed as fast as possible.

Hjartbo: The Scandinavians seem to prefer the Caffé Roma just outside the fair. We call it The Scandinavian Hub. Last year I went to The Blues Night for the first time. That was great too.

Cheng: We mostly go for oriental-style cuisine, and sometimes for seafood and local flavours.
----=== Meet the buyers ===== Mahendra Thakar, Flemingo International international director ==

Company profile: Based in Dubai, Flemingo International operates 33 duty-free shops in India, Dubai, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Kenya. The company has stores at 12 Indian international airports, including Delhi, Goa, Chennai, Calicut and Trivandrum.== Lars Hjartbo, MyTravel Airways purchasing manager ==

Company profile: MyTravel Airways is a Scandinavian charter airline based in Copenhagen, Denmark. It operates inclusive tour flights to short-haul and long-haul holiday destinations in Europe and beyond. == Antares Cheng, King Power Group managing director ==

Company profile: Hong Kong-based King Power Group operates duty-free border shops, seaport outlets and airport stores in Hong Kong, China, Macau, Singapore and Japan.== Kaushal Tappoo, Tappoo executive director liquor, tobacco and confectionery ==

Company profile: The family-owned company runs retail, wholesale and manufacturing businesses on the island of Fiji.