ATÜ Duty Free, the joint-venture between TAV Airports Holding and Unifree Duty Free/Gebr. Heinemann has described the new Bulgari boutique at Istanbul Airport as the next level of a ‘fruitful 20-year partnership’ with the Italian brand.
The 115sq m ‘Roman temple’ opened at the new Istanbul Airport in July and is the product of a partnership between ATÜ Duty Free, Bulgari and Gebr. Heinemann. It was officially inaugurated yesterday (16 October) in the presence of trade media and dignitaries from the brand, retail partners and airport operator iGA.
Located airside in the Bosphorous Zone, the store is the focal point of the luxury area close to various other ATÜ Duty Free branded boutiques. These include Hermès, Celine, Fendi, Loro Piana, Michael Kors, Montblanc, Longchamp, Etro, Salvatore Ferragamo, Ermenegildo Zegna, Furla and Paul & Shark. ATÜ also runs a Luxury Timepieces (multi-brand watches and jewellery) store.
A JOURNEY BACK IN TIME
The Bulgari outlet itself marks the strong affinity between architect Peter Marino and Bulgari and is a journey back to the brand’s 130-year history. The Condotti showcases mirror the Via dei Condotti flagship store in Rome. Adorned with Imperial Saffron shantung silk, the fabric plays with light to warm the atmosphere and ambience and bring a piece of Rome to Istanbul.
Other elements including marble pillars, flooring and counters, along with the central Murano glass chandelier are further references to the brand’s origin. All add brightness to the overall environment.
Ersan Arcan, CEO, ATÜ Duty Free told TRBusiness: “Our first focus after putting the shop in place, completing the refurbishment and finalising the product assortment was to maintain a great level of service. In the short to mid-term, we will build up the customer portfolio and eventually, Bulgari and Heinemann may want us to help adopt a different approach as far as the assortment is concerned.”
In terms of assortment, the store offers a range of jewellery, watches and accessories from Bulgari’s Serpenti, Diva, Octo, Fiorever and B.Zero 1 collections at an average price of €5,000 ($5,560). There are also products dedicated to children retailing at around €600.
Arcan added: “Today, we have a perfect assortment, but I am sure we will discover some new opportunities during the learning period, which will last for the next six months or one year and look to capitalise.”
According to Vincenzo Pujia, Managing Director Europe, Bulgari, who overseas the brand’s 22 European DF&TR stores, the Istanbul Airport shop has performed strongly. “Sales have been incredibly strong, particularly during Golden Week in mid-October,” he told TRBusiness. He added: “The store has a very good and balanced product mix and sales are growing faster than expected. We must, however, ensure the assortment targets as many nationalities as possible, from Asian to local Europeans.
“This is one a combination of elements which will help improve the average ticket of around €2,000 in the Bulgari store at Istanbul Airport.”
Outlining the brand’s objectives for the first year of trading in the new shop, Pujia said it was all about delivering results. “We know the potential of the location and are grateful to have it. All the partners know each other very well so it is simply about delivering.
“The aim is to support our partners by sending over the marketing manager every two months and giving training to staff. I believe this store has all the ingredients to make a difference and be among our top three travel retail locations in Europe.”
The opening of the Istanbul store was the result of the partnership and ‘reciprocal trust’ between the brand and its retail partners. Pujia said: “We have known each other for a long time and are aware of the potential of the brand. We also know that space is required to showcase such products because it cannot be like a bazaar.”
He continued: “In this instance, there is somehow a direct relationship between the productivity per square meter and the number of showcases we have. The location was well deserved and delivered and provides the right balance between brand exposure and sales at the airport.”
Olaf Benjamin, Purchasing Director, Watches and Jewellery told TRBusiness that Bulgari was always going to be one of the branded boutiques in the new Istanbul Airport. “We always thought this particular location was perfect for a brand like Bulgari. On reflection it was a fantastic decision and the result is amazing.”
FIRST LOUNGE WITH VIP ROOM
In addition to being the largest Bulgari airport boutique, it is the first in travel retail to have a VIP lounge. This allows guests to discover the store’s most unique pieces of jewellery and watches. The VIP area is based on the original Elizabeth Taylor lounge in Rome, where the Hollywood actor would spend many hours to escape from the paparazzi.
“We want customers to experience a dream when they enter our boutique,” Pujia remarked. “It is not purely about the transaction and making the sale. It is about creating that level of physical comfort and empathy between customer, brand and sales person.”
Benjamin added: “As we are in Turkey, there are a lot of customers from the Middle East, many of whom want to try products in private. The novelties in the store are something special and customers expect a special service in a special room. The VIP room offers an option to escape from the hectic airport environment.”
It is not only the VIP room which creates the appropriate level of service excellence, but the highly knowledgeable staff, who were invited to Rome to learn more about the brand’s heritage. “The most important thing was to get the right staff. If you don’t have the right staff it makes no sense to send them to Rome to train them as they will never learn.
“ATÜ was faced with the challenge of choosing the right people and did an amazing job,” Benjamin acknowledged.
Arcan concluded: “I think we have access to the best people who are proud to work with us. We very much rely on our brand partners, but in the case of Bulgari, they absolutely depend on training and the opportunity to transfer their know-how.
“We also have our own institute for every-day training and orientation programmes and offer language courses for our staff to cater for the wide variety of customer nationalities.”