Featured interview: Petrina Kho, General Manager, Kiehl’s Travel Retail AsPac

By Michael Barrett |

Petrino-Kho-GM-Kiehl's-Asia-Pac-TR-leadAs recently reported, L’Oréal-owned brand, Kiehl’s, concluded its ‘love adventure’ tour around Asia Pacific in Seoul on 18-19 October where it launched its ‘Kiehl’s Loves Korea’ campaign at the Star Lounge of the Lotte Duty Free downtown mall in Seoul’s Jung-gu district.

TRBusiness reported live from the event in Seoul and interviewed Petrina Kho, General Manager of Kiehl’s Travel Retail Asia Pacific.


How would you describe Kiehl’s performance in DF&TR so far in 2019?

Petrina Kho: Travel Retail continues to be in great shape for the first half of 2019 due to significant growth of air traffic, and Kiehl’s Travel Retail Asia Pacific is able to take full advantage of this trend through our solid 13 years of experience in the industry. We continue to be optimistic and are able to continuously accelerate our business by focusing on great iconic products like Ultra Facial Cream and always putting our consumers first in everything we do.


What has been the reaction among consumers so far with the Kiehl’s Loves campaign in terms of engagement with the CSR/environmental messages and sales? How does this compare with the pre-campaign launch targets?

With the tour coming to a finale in Seoul, we are extremely happy with the reception. Pop-up activation is strategic for Kiehl’s Travel Retail Asia Pacific, and is now a great way for us to engage and recruit new customers. It is important that we are innovative in the ways we connect with travellers to provide them with new experiences around our skincare expertise, and to educate them on the impact our travel has on the environment.

As we continue our mission to help customers look good while doing good, our engagements with Pur Projet and Ecopeace Asia aim to raise awareness on how we can protect the environment. This is one of our ways to make beauty sustainable.


Petrina Kho (third from left) officially opened the Kiehl’s Loves Korea activation in Seoul last month.

Which consumer profiles have responded the most favourably to the campaign and have you been able to reach out to new consumers with the campaigns?

Our target consumers remain travellers, Chinese citizens and millennials. With this campaign, our focus is on digitalisation while engaging our consumers through our superior skincare consultation. The ‘Kiehl’s Loves’ pop-up not only brought excitement to our existing users but also recruited new users who are travelling to these cities.


Will Kiehl’s be extending these interactive activations to other products in the travel retail range?

We aim to always delight our consumers through our superior skincare consultation and range. We are always looking out for opportunities to partner with airports, retailers to bring excitement to travellers in Asia Pacific.


The ‘Kiehl’s Loves Korea’ campaign featured the Korean K-pop trend with Rising K-Pop rapper Lai Kuan Lin, pictured here on the traditional Korean buildings pop-up along with the brand’s iconic ‘Mr Bones’.

In addition to the PUR Project forestry programme donations, how else is Kiehl’s incorporating sustainability into its business model and how will this be communicated to consumers to educate them on environmental issues?

Kiehl’s is one of the leading brands in going green; we are dedicated to giving back to the community and environment, and strive to encourage travellers to join us in our efforts towards making better citizens, better communities and better companies.

For the final stop of the ‘Kiehl’s Loves’ campaign in Seoul, together with Lotte Duty Free, we were pleased to partner with Ecopeace Asia in planting trees in Korea. With every purchase of Ultra Facial Cream 125ml Kiehl’s and Lotte Foundation will jointly be donating $1USD to Ecopeace Asia to plant trees in our effort to reduce micro dust and air pollution for a cleaner and greener Korea.


The ‘CalenduLAB’: An interactive kinetic installation where floating calendula petals responded to visitors’ touch at the Kiehl’s Love Korea event in Seoul.

You showcased the Made Better concept during the TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes. Will you be rolling out these responsible sourcing and packaging concepts across the entire range?

I’m very glad you asked this question. We are extremely proud of our initiatives towards responsible sourcing and packaging; there are many ways to minimise our impact to the environment, a few concrete examples specifically for Kiehl’s Travel Retail Asia Pacific are:

– We have removed the use of cellophane for all our travel retail exclusive sets

– Usage of more sustainable materials such as recycled paper and recycled polyester for our travel retail exclusive sets and gift with purchase

– We have also worked with our innovation team to look into lighter packaging, which significantly reduces the amount of materials used and also reduces the carbon emission in shipping our goods with a lighter weight.


L to R: Jeffrey Davis, Lotte Merchandising Director Beauty; Petrina Kho, Kiehl’s Travel Retail Asia Pacific General Manager and Baek-chan Hong, Ecopeace Asia Executive Director.

Some consumers have openly criticised some brands of ‘greenwashing’ (particularly true in apparel retailing) – ie not putting their well-publicised intentions to become more ‘green’ into action (not walking the talk). What is your view on this? How damaging do you think this is to those companies and the efforts of others genuinely trying to make a difference?

Indeed, walking the talk is very important; for me personally, sustainability needs to be a collective effort from the whole team. It takes time to get everyone on-board and it needs to be done on a daily basis to make sustainability an integral part of our operation. For example, our team building in Kiehl’s early this year took place at an orphanage in Da Nang, Vietnam, where we got to witness what it really means to give back to the community.

We have also made significant effort in removing cellophane and reducing the amount of cardboard used in our travel retail exclusive sets so that we use less paper and plastic to significantly reduce the carbon emission produced through shipping our goods.

With our customers, we aim to raise awareness through collaborations with ZEROWASTE in Singapore early this year on Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and currently with PurProjet and EcoPeace Asia on planting trees to offset carbon emission and combat air pollution.



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