EXCLUSIVE: Tallink’s strategic tax free rebrand starts with Silja Serenade

By Kevin Rozario |

The biggest cruise/ferry operator on the Baltic Sea, Tallink Group, this weekend unveiled a new fleet-wide identity for its generic core-category tax free stores, creating – for the first time – a unified branding across both Tallink and Silja Line vessels.


The 980-cabin Silja Serenade, which operates between Finland and Sweden, is the first ship to get the new store design and logo. It made its first sailing from Helsinki to Stockholm and back at the weekend. Sister ship, Symphony, is expected to get the next retail revamp by the summer.


As well as the new branding – called Tax Free Superstore – that will roll out to all of Tallink Group’s 18 vessels, Serenade’s retail offer has had a total overhaul costing €11m ($15m), until now the biggest retail renovation from Tallink.



The tax free store on the ship measures 1,300sq m, more than double the previous unit of 600sq m with large walk-through departments for beauty and wines and spirits, plus much-upgraded fixtures and fittings that give passengers the feel of an upscale department store (see above).


Speaking to TRBusiness, Magnus Skjörshammer (left), Business Development Director for Tallink Duty Free, says: “The idea is to give the same identity to the whole fleet so passenger will recognise the brand across all our routes. Silja was purchased in 2006 by Tallink Group and it had a different retail offer. This is the final merging of the shop concepts…. at least of the volume shops.”



Meanwhile on the deck above the tax free store, called the promenade deck (right), the focus has been on new boutiques and brand introductions – particularly in the luxury and fashion categories – designed to appeal to specific segments of the passenger profile, in order to raise per-head spending in the coming years.


Serenade’s promenade now features a series of new standalone category concepts including a large-format store for fashion, a boutique called Luxury (below) selling sunglasses, watches, jewellery and small leather goods, as well as a gifts store, electronics unit, and kids and toys shop.


The individual stores have 80 digital screens to highlight the brand and product offers, with another 40 – some with touch-screen interactivity – spread around the decks.


“Now we are differentiating the shopping even more strongly,” explains Skjörshammer. “Silja is where it should be… at the top end of the market, as it has always been the higher end (ferry) brand on the Baltic Sea. What we are doing is repositioning it at the top once again. Meanwhile Tallink will remain value for money. But the core identity will rest with the generic tax free shop concept.”


“I would say that Viking and Tallink compete with each other, whereas Silja is in a league by itself,” adds Skjörshammer. “Now, with more Russians and Asians on board, we also have to accommodate their tastes which had not really been done before. But the focus is still on Nordic passengers as they remain the majority.”


Silja Line has been strongly marketing the new offer to its potential customers (right) from a brand perspective with the result that the first sailing was 100% sold out. Among the new draws are: Bose, Burberry, Desigual, GF Ferré, Gucci, Furla, Kenzo, Liebeskind, Nina Ricci, Raymond Weil, Superdry Tag Heuer Versace and Victoria’s Secret, with collections now spanning a much wider price range.



Serenade’s Ships Director, Marko Makke (left) tells TRBusiness: “Before, the most expensive watch we had was €200. Now it’s more than €5,000. With the new selections we are waiting to see what changes there will be with the Russians’ purchasing habits especially.”


With the summer season starting in June, the mix of nationalities starts to increase dramatically. “In almost every department we have someone who speaks Russian,” adds Makke. “In May, Russians also have some holidays when we have 500-800 on board daily for a few days.”


In January too, at the Orthodox Christmas holiday period, Russian numbers can rise above 1,000 daily, while in the summer a steady stream of Asian passengers – especially from Japan, but also China – choose to sail on the Baltic.


For this reason, in the Tax Free Superstore, special high-end collections of Cognac and whisky have been sourced and displayed behind glass in the centre of the liquor area to attract the attention of mostly non-Nordic passengers looking for such limited editions and exclusive items.


In 2012, Tallink Group managed to increase its overall on-board shop and restaurant sales to €517.45m ($672.7m), a rise of +6.0%, despite a rise in passenger traffic of just +1.3% to 9.26m [2013’s numbers will be revealed in March-Ed].


“We hope to continue with that now that we have so many new brands on board especially diverse fashion brands and electronics. And a standalone luxury fashion shop which we had not previously had,” says Skjörshammer. “We are expecting spend per head to increase but it is difficult to say by exactly how much.”


[A full report on this important strategic retail revamp from Tallink Group will appear in a forthcoming issue of TRBusiness magazine.]


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