Rabanne unveils its first fashion activation in travel retail at Heathrow

By Faye Bartle |

Members of the Rabanne, Heathrow Airport, Avolta, JCDecaux quaternity cut the ribbon on the exclusive activation.

ON LOCATION: Fashion brand of the moment Rabanne has launched its first ever fashion activation in travel retail at Heathrow’s largest pop-up space across the estate, in Terminal 2.

Part of the Puig portfolio, Rabanne had initially taken over the coveted 85 sq m animation space – known as ‘the exhibit site’ – to showcase its new fragrances Fame and Phantom Parfum until January 2024.

Now, in partnership with Avolta, JCDecaux and Heathrow Airport, it has been transformed to also feature selected fashion items for purchase, including the Maison’s statement XL link jewellery and coveted 1969 bag series.

In an airport exclusive, travelling consumers have the chance to customise the 1969 bags with charms on four weekends between October and December – the same high-level service that’s offered in the brand’s flagship fashion stores on the domestic markets.

“For the last three years, it has been very clear that we have put travel retail at the core of the growth for the business for the Rabanne brand,” said Kaatje Noens, Puig Executive Vice President Global Travel Retail.

The first-ever Rabanne fashion activation in travel retail in partnership with Avolta, JCDecaux and Heathrow Airport is live until the end of January 2024. 

Earlier this year, Puig unveiled Paco Rabanne’s new retail identity, with travel retail selected as the first channel to showcase the rebrand, which saw the fashion and fragrance house enter a new era under one unified ‘Rabanne’ image encompassing fashion and fragrance.

Phantom and Fame were introduced to travellers through an extensive launch programme featuring over 150 striking activations in key airports in EMEA and the Americas between July and October.

The Heathrow activation, which also showcases iconic fashion pieces from the archives (not for sale), marks the next step in the journey.

In an airport first for Rabanne, the activation features fragrances together with exclusive fashion collections.

Noens said that the brand experiencing an “exciting moment” makes the high-profile Heathrow activation extra timely.

The recent Rabanne x H&M Collection was snapped up upon its launch last week, with a run on online purchases and shoppers queing up to get their hands on the pieces.

There is also a huge amount of enthusiasm about the make-up collection introduced in summer, which will be making its way to travel retail in the coming months, according to Noens.

Add to that how Beyoncé opened her Renaissance tour in a Rabanne dress and it’s easy to understand why the brand is creating buzz.

“What we have seen post-Covid is that people are looking for different experiences and this activation is all about brand elevation and presenting Rabanne as one brand.

“We see travel retail as a brand building platform,” she added. “We also want to have a unique selling proposition for the passengers.

“The stars were aligned and we took the opportunity to try this out and make it happen.”

The animation provides travellers with the chance to engage in an exclusive customisation atelier, a unique feature only available at the pop-up during dedicated periods from October to December.

Offering consumers ‘uniqueness’ is paramount when it comes to elevating the Puig portfolio in travel retail, across both its fashion and niche brands, and the Rabanne activation is a striking eample.

“We are trying to make sure there is a gifting experience that can be unique to the consumer or the passenger and also that there is a sense of place compared to other airports – always under the umbrella of our brand equity,” noted Noens.

The diverse mix of travellers passing through T2 is, of course, key to the strategy.

“The brand has the most global footprint of any of our brands,” she said. “Also, Gen Z and millennials are buying more in airports and they are open to very fashionable items and unique experiences that are not that easily found.”

In terms of how Puig will measure the success of the activation, Noens said it would be a mix of tangibles and intangibles.

“What we are already seeing is that certain demographics that were not necessarily customers of the Rabanne brand are actually attracted due to the fashion side of it and although they might not end up buying fashion, they may be converted to the fragrances. That is, for me, one of the most important KPIs of success.”

Several of Rabanne’s fashion pieces, including The Maison’s statement XL link jewellery and iconic 1969 bag series, are presented at the pop-up space.

Engagement levels are also among the analytics that will help the company to decide whether to potentially extend the duration of the activation, roll it out at other airports or add it to the business model moving forward. Indeed, Noens has a “wish list” of airports where similar activations may appear in the future, pending evaluation.

The brand is historically well exposed in Europe, although there could be huge scope to bolster distribution and awareness in Asia.

“The Asian customer is very fashion driven and they are engaging and looking and intrigued by what is happening and they end up buying our fragrances because they are intrigued by the fashion.”

At the Heathrow T2 activation, travellers can also discover Rabanne’s other key fragrance pillars – Million, Invictus and Olympéa – at the fragrance bar.

Those purchasing a bottle of either Phantom Parfum or Fame Parfum have the opportunity to create a personalised Phantom/Fame keyring.

Initially showcasing the new fragrances Fame and Phantom Parfum, the space has now been transformed to feature exclusive fashion collections.

“We have a history of working with Rabanne over Covid and it’s great to work with them as the airport recovers,” said Rory Ford, Senior Account Manager for Advertising at Heathrow.

The summer activations were supported by a 360-degree digital awareness programme designed to reach travellers at each touchpoint of their journey through display advertising, paid social media, influencer marketing and advertising on retailers’ e-commerce sites, and the T2 activation is getting a similar treatment.

“We have over 1,600 individual advertising sites at Heathrow – we’re like a small London Borough – so when you are delivering an activation of this size you want to use the advertising estate to build up that sense of experience throughout the passenger journey, from the Heathrow Express to check-in, to the activation itself,” said Ford. “Working with JCDecaux really helps us to do that.

“Avolta is also incredibly important for us in terms of offering the service capability of the products – especially in an activation like this, which is a hybrid we have not done before from a quaternity collaboration, with the fragrance and fashion element super exciting.

“We worked with Rabanne throughout their rebranding process as well, and this activation is a core part of that for them, so it was really interesting for us to see them go through such an important change of brand and help them bring that to life.”

From left to right: TRBusiness Managing Editor Faye Bartle; Rory Ford, Senior Account Manager for Advertising at Heathrow; and Kaatje Noens, Puig Executive Vice President Global Travel Retail.

Ford said the project has been six months in the making due to the complexities of delivering an activation of this size.

“I think this is the biggest and best and most impactful collaboration that we have done,” he said.

Heathrow reported its nine-month results (to 30 September 2023) in October, welcoming a total of 59 million passengers and reclaiming the crown as ‘the most connected airport in the world’ with connections to over 214 destinations and flights to Peru and Turkmenistan added in winter.

“Terminal 2 is our second largest in terms of volume of passengers after T5,” said Ford. “I think what you get with the terminal is, with Star Alliance being the partner, an incredibly wide range of passenger demographics. So really what we are delivering is volume and passenger mix, in an awesome space.

“For pop-up spaces generally, we are seeing a trend for brands wanting to offer this kind of hybrid experience that we haven’t seen before and I think it is being driven by Rabanne in that respect. It’s the best way that brands can exhibit a holistic view of everything they have to offer.”

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