Duty calls gin

William Grant & Sons-owned Hendrick’s has been the star performer in travel retail in recent years, investing heavily in quirky promotions that use the brand’s eccentric Monty Pythonesque marketing. The British gin grew by nearly a third in travel retail in 2014 and it followed up this bravura performance in 2015 by being one of one of only nine spirit brands to be given its own shop-in-shop within DFS Group’s new Duplex store at Singapore Changi airport’s Terminal 3. It’s arguably the most high profile travel retail location anywhere in Asia.


Gin is making a splash stateside too. Jon Bonchick, director of buying and merchandising at Duty Free Americas, the largest duty free operator in the US, with stores at many hub airports such as New York JFK, Atlanta Hartsfield and Miami international, as well as outlets on both the northern and southern US borders, says gin is one of the company’s fastest growing spirit categories.

“Hendrick’s deserves a lot of the credit. It came along with a new approach not only in terms of taste, but packaging. It’s brought a younger consumer into the fold. We’ve also had requests [for other gins] and are now doing well with brands such as Bulldog, G’Vine and Citadelle. We’ve even had a request for Monkey 47, which was recently acquired by Pernod Ricard.

“I think gin is coming back to the younger folks, which is a good thing,” he adds. “I might not try a new gin in all our stores, but I’ll pick some key stores to test it in. If it does well, we’ll look to expand it slowly, but surely.”

Martin Miller’s gin, produced by the Reformed Spirits Co and launched in 1999 when it was vodka making the headlines, has been active in the travel retail sector for many years. CEO Jacob Ehrenkrona is a big fan of this specialised retail sector although he is also aware of its frustrations.

“Travel retail is quite an unusual way of selling,” he says. “For people not familiar with it you have to explain it a little – how it works and what its advantages are. I have been very pleased with our performance since we started working in duty free in an organised way.

“Obviously to an outsider volumes are very small compared to what you sell in other outlets and channels. It costs a fortune and is very complicated, but the thing I am particularly pleased with is you get the opportunity to display the brand and talk to your customers in a way that is otherwise very difficult for a start-up company.”

Ehrenkrona also says that gaining high-profile listings has helped Martin Miller’s gain credibility as an international brand. “Once we were in duty free [shops] it was much easier to talk to buyers at big retailers and other distributors around the world,” he says.

Despite Martin Miller’s progress in travel retail, Ehrenkrona says he is keen to fill in some important gaps in the brand’s distribution in the channel in key duty free markets such as the US, which he says is very hard to crack.