Dufry Group has hinted at opening further The Macallan boutiques in UK airports, following yesterday’s (11 September) inauguration at London Heathrow (LHR) Terminal Five.
Opened on 20 July 2019, the LHR boutique is a reincarnation of the brand’s £140m ($172.6m) Speyside distillery, which opened last June. The official unveiling of the distillery and visitor centre actually took place in September 2018.
The new distillery is part of a wider £500m brand investment which started last year and continues with the opening of boutiques such as this one.
Yesterday’s unveiling was attended by representatives from Dufry, Edrington Global Travel Retail and members of the trade media. Guests had the opportunity to nose the Macallan Boutique Collection and learn more about it from The Macallan whisky maker Polly Logan.
According to Edrington Global Travel Retail, the lattice in the centre of the LHR boutique is inspired by the ceiling of the Speyside distillery.
Developed in partnership with Dufry, The Macallan and London Heathrow Airport, the boutique offers a curated range of rare and exclusive whiskies.
Highlights of the collection include expressions from The Macallan’s Fine and Rare Collection, The Macallan 72 Year Old in Lalique—The Genesis Decanter, The Macallan Boutique Collection, The Macallan Folio 5 and expressions from the Macallan Exceptional Single Cask Collection.
Fred Creighton, Division CEO, UK, Northern and Central Europe, Dufry Group told TRBusiness: “This boutique would sit well in five or six of our big terminals in the UK, but we would have to be careful in terms of exactly where it is implemented.
“This is because we try to give consumers flying through a particular terminal the right product offer.”
Each year, Dufry spends a significant amount of time talking to brands at LHR about how they can create something bigger, better and more successful. Creighton commented: “This boutique is a great example of where we have worked in a three-party collaborative fashion.
“London Heathrow created the right amount of space, in the right position and in the right terminal. For us, it was about developing the concept with the brand and being able to execute it within Heathrow itself. It has been very successful.”
In terms of performance in the early stages, Creighton said: “We have started with a real bang. Due to the uniqueness of the products, we had two customers fighting over one item on day one. Demand is there. As long as we are able to create enough range and availability the boutique will be an absolute success.”
Staff have an important role to play in all DF&TR stores, but in this instance it is particularly vital. “Obviously, in a boutique like this you are really at the luxury end. The training and quality of staff and their ability to bring the liquid to life is very important.”
Regarding online purchasing opportunities, Creighton explained: “We have our own online reserve and collect scheme. With a lot of our brands is create boutiques within our reserve and collect area. We are working on creating a boutique for The Macallan to be able to display these types of products online.”
A THREE-YEAR JOURNEY
Offering an Edrington perspective, Jeremy Speirs, who assumed the role of Managing Director, Europe Middle East and Africa on 1 August 2018, reflects on a three-year journey culminating in the LHR inauguration. He told TRBusiness: “I came here a couple of weeks ago and the fantastic thing was that it looked exactly as I expected.
“All the right products were in place and the staff were very attentive and gave me the experience I wanted.”
Speirs, who admits a lot of planning went into the project added: “We are hugely excited because we are able to showcase our brands in one of the most highly sought-after locations in the world. There are departing passengers we want to be talking to as a brand, whether they are Chinese, Taiwanese, American, European or Russian.”
The boutique has received ‘phenomenal feedback’ since it began trading, according to Speirs. “Some of our consumers have come to us unprovoked and told us what a fantastic experience they had.”
Lessons have certainly been learnt from the Dubai and Taiwan boutiques, according to Speirs. “All staff at the LHR boutique were taken up to the distillery. This was something we did for the staff in Dubai. It was a huge success and really appreciated.
“The investment of time and effort was huge, but it was absolutely the right thing to do.”
On the product front, ensuring the correct items are on shelf and managing the sales, will be important in the future. “We have to manage how often we sell things. A customer might enter the boutique wanting to purchase a particular product. Should this not be possible, we will offer them alternatives or put them into a ballet for one of our high-end prestige products.
“There are different ways to manager different products.”
FURTHER GTR OPENINGS?
Pressed by TRBusiness on the possibility of further boutique openings in GTR, Speirs remarked: “We have a hit list of airports we want to be in and there are two or three in the pipeline. It all depends on the partners we have around us. There might a scenario where the right location in the right airport is not available.”
The importance of the whisky segment and the ability for airports such as LHR to offer concepts such as The Macallan boutique is there for all to see.
Newly appointed Retail Director, Fraser Brown told TRBusiness: “Alcohol in general and whisky in particular is an important category. It is not as big as beauty or some of the others, but is still vital. We are trying to deliver the best airport in the world and there is no better place to showcase whisky than London Heathrow as it made only 400 miles away.”
In the case of The Macallan boutique, Brown says he is really excited to bring together all these elements. “We have had some interesting reactions. There are the more regular products on the core wall and some premium products on the prestige wall. The premium items have created real interest.”
He continued: “Not every customer is purchasing an expensive product with history and age, but thanks to our personal shoppers and reach team, we have some fantastic customers actually searching out the boutique and flying in from around the world..”
With some of the airport’s high-volume retailers, Brown and his team will closely monitor average spend, number of transactions and amount of customers .
In this instance, it is a more subjective and about delivering a fantastic experience. “That is the difference between what physical and digital retail can do. Here, we have this fabulous reincarnation of the distillery and wonderful digital wall where you can really feel what it is like in Speyside. You can’t get that on Amazon or anywhere else.”
Learning on the job is the main priority for LHR, Dufry and The Macallan, emphasised Brown. “It is genuinely early days. We are learning. It is the first time we have done this, first time The Macallan has done this in Europe and first time Dufry has undertaken something like this with a single brand. From my point of view everything is going well.”