TRBusiness has been on location in the Baltic Sea with Tallink Grupp this week for a first look at the 2,500 sqm retail space onboard the company’s new US$267 million (EUR 247 million) fast ferry MyStar.
Our hosts Piret Mürk-Dubout and Aimar Pärna, both Members of the Management Board of Tallink Group AS, and Katri Keian, Travel Retail Project Manager, AS Tallink Duty Free, gave TRBusiness an in-depth insight into new retail space onboard the energy efficient LNG ship.
The latest addition to Tallink’s 15-strong fleet, MyStar operates six daily trips on the two-hour Tallinn-Helsinki shuttle service route and has the capacity to carry up to 2,800 passengers.
The retail area has been born from a vision to bring “courage, attractiveness and uniqueness back to the [travel] retail business,” according to Mürk-Dubout.
This has involved working closely with brands and suppliers to create a shopping experience that’s packed with originality and represents the company’s “next generation of shopping at sea”.
“I like to feel as if I’m on a boat, rather than in a department store in the city,” said Mürk-Dubout. “Together with brands and suppliers, we need to bring back that uniqueness and differentiation. It’s an underused opportunity for brands.
“A lot of focus has been turning more to the domestic market, which has been natural during the pandemic, but our call to them is to look again at travel retail and the opportunities they can get there.”
The sentiment is firmly brought to life onboard MyStar with a visually striking walkthrough Traveller Superstore that spans two decks and is home to 2,500 brands including Chanel, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Furla, Moët Hennessy and Toblerone.
A highlight is the promotional area on the eighth deck, which spotlights different suppliers each month, with dynamic big screens, interactive experiences (such as wine tasting), and ambassadors on hand to help engage passengers and bring brand stories to life.
It’s something that suppliers are already queuing to be a part of, according to the Tallink team.
There are five shop-in-shop concepts, for La Mer, Kiehl’s, Calvin Klein, ShiShi and Moomin (which offers a boat themed family photo opportunity alongside a selection of souvenirs produced exclusively for MyStar).
More exclusive MyStar products to shop for include Veuve Clicquot MyStar champagne, special edition chocolate pralines from Fazer, and the personalised MyStar sleeve Toblerone, to name just a few.
A total of 500 sqm is dedicated to perfumes and cosmetics, which provide the highest share of shop revenue (20%) across the group.
New category listings for MyStar include Kylie by Kylie Jenner, Morroccanoil, Vichy and La Roche Posay, Mums with Love (Denmark) and Jo Malone London, as well as a clutch of local cosmetics brands.
Elsewhere in the Traveller Superstore, there are dedicated areas for: fashion and accessories (occupying 700 sqm); sweets, deli and snacks, tobacco products, alcohol and alcohol-free beverages (800 sqm); and gifts and kidswear (500 sqm).
The dedicated Nordic Corner highlights local Scandinavian design, featuring brands such as Marimekko and Iittala.
“We have a small Nordic Corner concept on the Estonian border, but the MyStar space is bigger and more popular,” explained Pärna. Over 300 pitches from suppliers in Estonia alone were received for the concept.
There’s also a fashion pop-up with a changing display of brands and products that are exclusive to MyStar.
The ship’s mascot, Harry the Seal adds an extra touch of fun, with his ‘Seal the Deal’ messaging dotted around the store. The average spend per customer is around US$54-65 (EUR50-60).
The brightest star in the Baltic Sea?
To make the retail space flow onboard the ship, which the company has dubbed ‘the brightest star in the Baltic Sea’, Tallink analysed the customer journey from start to finish in order to refine the offer.
The interior design concept, by Finnish interior architecture firm dSign Vertti Kivi & Co, is inspired by the local environment, people and culture.
“We wanted to make sure it was sophisticated enough for the brands,” said Mürk-Dubout.
The feedback from suppliers that TRBusiness spoke with at the launch party was overwhelmingly positive.
“I really like the shop – it’s big with lots of room for different categories. Considering how busy ships get during the peak hours, it needs that capacity, and it has been well planned out,” said Victor Hafström, Manager, Europe North Cruise and Airlines Lead, Global Travel Retail, Brown-Forman.
“We have a long partnership with Tallink and they carry a large part of our portfolio so we are happy to work with them on developing this new concept onboard MyStar.
“A lot of people want to come and experience the new ship so that’s super interesting for us.”
Brown-Forman has a large gondola for Jack Daniel’s and is planning various activations and promotions throughout the year, such as offering Finlandia Vodka cocktails.
“Passengers really want to have an experience when they’re onboard, and this is how we can really add value,” said Hafström.
Brown-Forman is launching its first ever Jack Daniel’s single malt this summer and Tallink will “definitely be part of the global launch”, he added.
There are two new flavours of Finlandia Botanical – Wild Berry & Rose and Cucumber & Mint – in the pipeline for travel retail and Brown-Forman is already “talking about how we can bring this to life onboard”.
“The cruise and ferry channel is really important for us,” said Hafström. “It’s a captive, sizeable audience that spends onboard. We see an opportunity to collaborate more with our partners in this space.”
Anora’s Olli-Pekka Lappalainen, Key Account Manager Global Travel Retail, and Bo Madsen, Director Global Travel Retail, were also in attendance.
“Passengers on this route can make a saving of 20-40% on alcohol. The benchmark is the prices in the Estonia domestic market,” said Madsen, who enthused that the shop looks “fantastic”.
“In this region people are used to travelling on ferries so when a new one arrives, it’s exciting,” added Lappalainen.
Anora has a dedicated display for Koskenkorva, including its Climate Action vodka, as well as Chill Out wines and feature areas for a number of other brands that the company distributes.
“People tend to have a shopping list before they come onboard, complete with requests from neighbours and friends, which is different to airport shopping, generally speaking,” said Lappalainen.
“Pre-ordering is a big part of the business, and purchases can be brought to the car which is convenient,” he added.
Mondelez World Travel Retail is currently part of the promotional area, with a brand ambassador handing out samples of its local confectionery brand Marabou.
Toblerone, Oreo, and Milka and Daim are its other key brands in the spotlight.
“Compared to the domestic markets, everything here is value-added somehow, with different flavours shapes and sizes,” explained Peter Max, Senior Business Development Manager, Mondelez World Travel Retail.
“We also offer experiences, such as the Oreo game that passengers can play via the QR code.
Sustainability is at the heart of the partnership with Tallink, according to Max, giving Mondelez a fantastic opportunity to showcase some of its achievements in this area – for instance, by communicating to consumers more about its global cocoa sustainability programme, Cocoa Life, which aims to secure a supply of more sustainable cocoa.
(Details of Tallink’s sustainability journey will be reported in a follow-up article.)
Maximising every moment of the two-hour journey
Shopping has been made as convenient as possible, with eight self-service checkouts, pre-ordering services and delivery available to car and tour bus passengers, as well as a range of payment options including WeChat Pay and Alipay.
There’s a curated retail offer for business class guests and the Tallink webshop (which has 2.2 million annual users with a 2.57% conversion rate) provides yet another opportunity to tell brand stories.
Onboard MyStar, there are four classes of passengers – Star, Comfort, Business and Platinum – with a total of 870 sqm of relaxation areas. The swinging nest chairs, which don’t yet feature on any of Tallink’s other ships, are always occupied quickly, said Keian.
There’s lots of space to unwind, including seven passenger lounges, seven restaurants, café and bars, a family picnic area, and a kids’ playground where parents can relax while keeping a watchful eye over their little ones.
“We wanted it to be a stress-free, easy, seamless journey so passengers can utilise every moment of the two-hour journey,” said Mürk-Dubout.
MyStar set sail on its maiden voyage on 13 December 2022, joining the company’s existing Megastar and Star on the Tallinn-Helsinki shuttle service route, in effect offering passengers a new and exciting host vessel for their commute, day trip or holiday.
The company says it has a 48% share of the 20 million strong passenger market in the Northern Baltic Sea, with its top passenger groups in 2021 being Finnish (41%), Estonian (30%) and Swedish (13%). Prior to the pandemic, Tallink was achieving 10 million annual customers with a 53% market share.
Asia provided 1% of passengers in 2021 compared to 10% pre pandemic, but this is set to change.
“Travel is logical – it starts close to home,” said Mürk-Dubout. “But we have already see that bookings from Asia are coming back for spring and summer from Japan, Singapore, Korea and also India.
“We’re also seeing an increase in passengers from the US and Canada. This is partly due to the Finnair flight network, which had shifted that way from Asia.”
As mentioned above, perfumes and cosmetics lead the way for revenue per category (20%) across the group, followed by spirits (18%), fashion and accessories (15%), tobacco (13%) and confectionery (12%).
Having its own logistics centre means Tallink can plan well ahead when it comes to stock levels and remain agile.
On supply chain challenges, Mürk-Dubout noted that the situation has improved over recent months.
“Last summer was challenging but as we have our own logistics centre, we can be flexible,” she said.
The line-up of suppliers on MyStar is refreshed annually on 1 May, although Tallink is flexible and ready to take on new assortment and take a proactive approach to bringing in newness.
As Mürk-Dubout summarised: “Now we are back to business, our mains goals are to restore volumes and attractiveness together with our most valued suppliers and to jointly provide the greatest possible shopping experience.”