The 21st Travel Retail Consortium event

By Doug Newhouse |

Jersey in the Channel Islands was the setting for this year’s 21st Travel Retail Consortium annual event, where members and some 28 retail buyers from across the UK gathered for a fun wine blending experience, lunch at La Mare Wine Estate, followed by a flower-themed Gala Dinner.

With the emphasis firmly on fun and gentle networking rather than business, guests tasted various wines from the 25-acre La Mare vineyard, with groups of ten then testing their knowledge of wine to ultimately create a series of blended white wines from four unlabelled bottles. 

Each table then forwarded its blended wine of choice (named with tasting notes) for an overall winner to be chosen. Guests were then treated to a buffet lunch with time to look around the vineyard before returning back to the Hotel de France in St Helier. 

An evening Champagne Reception was followed by a Black Tie Gala Dinner and a flower-themed Summer Ball in celebration of the island’s annual Flower Festival. A ‘Consortium Casino’ and dancing then engaged guests until the early hours.

Jan Kristiansen Binder, Chair of the TRC said: “For Consortium members and buyers, our annual event is a brilliant social networking opportunity. The emphasis is on fun; there are no formal presentations and the environment is deliberately ‘non-business’ focussed. It gives both suppliers and retailers a great opportunity to meet old friends and gain new contacts for the future, whilst enjoying themselves.”

Guests at this year’s event included representatives from British Airways, P&O, Condor, DFDS, Harding Brothers, Flybe and Jet2 amongst many others.

Peter O’Shea, Category Executive, Business Development Retail at BA said: ”The Travel Retail Consortium events are always great fun and the venue this year was excellent – but mostly it was the people who made the whole thing so enjoyable. 

“It’s a great opportunity to meet up with other industry members in a relaxed and ‘non-business’ environment and the Consortium clearly put in a great deal of time and effort to ensure the we had a memorable stay.”

Kirsty Crowther, Buying Manager at was similarly enthused: “Not only was the Travel Retail Consortium event on Jersey great fun, it also offered a chance to network with like-minded people from within our industry. I particularly enjoyed the Wine Blending at the Le Mare Wine Estate where some of us took the competition to concoct the perfect wine a little too seriously.”

The TRC is now actively seeking to both increase membership in relevant categories and to raise its profile generally within the business, with the aim of attracting a wider group of retailers to its events. 

Rebecca Harwood Lincoln, PR and Communications Executive at the TRC said: “The duty-free/travel retail industry has changed hugely since the Consortium Club concept was originally conceived in the late sixties. At that time, our members included Worth Perfumes, Beechams, Whitbread, General Foods and Martini Rossi, while customers ranged from Fenton Hill and Trust House Forte, to Dan Air, Laker and Caledonian to Sealink and Hoverlloyd. 

“Over the years, consolidation and takeovers have not only changed the profile of the membership, but also of the industry and during that time the work of the Consortium has, perhaps, become a little less focussed and less well known. 

“We’re now committed to changing that with a new emphasis on membership strategies, which include looking at our annual event to ensure it creates the most attractive social opportunity for both members and retailers. One element is that in the past we have concentrated primarily on retailers operating within the UK, but are now looking to possible expand that focus, initially to include buyers from airlines, airport shops and ferries/cruise ships from throughout Europe.

“Communication of our activities is seen as a vital tool here and, to that end, we will be launching a TRC website very soon, along with a new updated logo. We have also appointed Essential Communications to assist us in promoting our activities through the trade media.”

Current TRC Members include: Accolade Wines; Boddingtons Bitter; Coty Prestige; Guinness; Imperial Tobacco International; Mars; Paramount Imagination; Polaroid Eyewear; Rémy Cointreau ; Retail in Motion; Royal Grolsch International; Russ Berrie; Taittinger Champagne; TRT Limited; and Twinings.

As TRC members say, the Travel Retail Consortium (previously known as The Consortium Club) does go back a long way and this journalist can remember some very special moments from more than 20 years ago. Perhaps the one that sticks in my mind most was when a former fiery UK ferry buyer slipped and fell somewhat ungraciously into a pond at one of the annual gatherings, while walking in the grounds of a hotel.

Seeing this happen, a senior airline buyer of the day rushed to his aid, pulling him quickly out of the weed, only to be told by others that he would now be ostracized by all of those suppliers present for ‘interfering’. [I’m sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen these days-Ed].


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