Confront travel retail ‘data gap’, industry told

By Luke Barras-hill |

Maingreaud-TFWE19-mainTFWA President Alain Maingreaud has urged duty free and travel retail stakeholders to tackle firmly the lack of available data as he today delivered his first TFWA World Exhibition & Conference plenary address.

In a surprising and bold move, TFWA did not present the customary Generation Research-supplied snapshot on the state of the global industry, delineated by sales per region and category among other metrics, which delegates are used to receiving.

Instead, Maingreaud criticised frankly the ‘collective failure’ of the industry to reach consensus on a ‘standout, internationally consistent benchmark’ for measuring the trade’s performance.


“Growing concerns about the scope and accuracy of the sales information [..] have led some to question its validity,” he declared, going on to warn: “Until we can overcome a reluctance to share the data that is the lifeblood of our industry, we shall be flying blind. What other multi-billion-dollar business makes decisions without even the most basic statistics to monitor its progress?”


TFWA tackled publicly what some may view as the elephant in the room; a dearth of quantitative data to instruct and guide investment in the the industry.

“We cannot afford to leave this issue un-addressed; it is time to act and TFWA stands ready to consider any credible proposals for bridging the vast gap in data provision that currently confronts us.

“If we don’t know what is happening in our own industry, how can we make informed decisions on the future of our market? At stake is nothing less than the sustainability of travel retail.”

Opening the conference with an overview of the speaker lineup, namely former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair – click here to read a separate report on his address – and brand marketing guru and former CEO of Havas David Jones, Maingreaud reminded delegates that Monday marks a day of national mourning following the recent passing of erstwhile French President Jacques Chirac.


TFWA has renewed its agreement with the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès to host the world summit in Cannes for at least a further three years.

“Technology, regulation and geopolitics are rapidly re-shaping traveller habits, this bring both challenges and opportunities,” he went on to say.

“Delegate feedback from recent TFWA events shows there is a strong interest in deepening our understanding of today’s political and business context.”


In a separate announcement, Maingreaud revealed that the association has extended its association with exhibition host Palais des Festivals et de Congres for a further three years.

He also provided an overview of some of the features at this year’s event, including the new TFWA Innovation Lab and traditional inflight workshop (Wednesday 2 October).


The agility and responsiveness of the travel retail industry to tackle climate change will shape its future irrevocably, sentiments echoed by TFWA President Alain Maingreaud in his first World Exhibition address.

Moderated by TRBusiness Editorial Director Charlotte Turner, the inflight workshop will seek to address – among other  topics – the rise of new technology as an alternative to the traditional duty free trolley in a climate where carriers are either reinventing their inflight offerings, or pulling them altogether.

The ability of the industry to be sustainable rests on several factors, Maingreaud continued, such as stable economies for trade and a political climate that encourages openness – factors of which are beyond the industry’s control.

Notwithstanding that, the quality of data and the industry’s ability to be open in its sharing as above is something that can be influenced.

The future of the trade also rests on the evolution of the current business model, Maingreaud suggests.

As stated on many an occasion, TFWA reiterated that the risk and financial rewards of airport retailing should be spread more evenly between airport landlords, retailers and brands.

“The concession system in operation in most airports rewards the landlords while leaving retailers and brands to bear much of the risk that accompanies international passenger flows,” he said.

“Rigidly applying a minimum annual guarantee or percentage of sales even when traveller footfall is weaker than predicted rarely incentivises retailers to maximise current returns rather than investing in the product range, store environment and staff training for future benefit.”


At the heart of the TFWA President’s presentation was an explicit focus on TFWA’s – and increasingly the wider industry’s – commitment to the fundamentals of sustainable business.

He emphasised that the actions of our planet are directly linked to human action and the level of CO2 emissions and other forms of pollution we produce globally.

“We cannot ignore the negative impact that aviation is having on the environment,” he said, pointing out that despite aviation still accounting for roughly 2% of worldwide greenhouse gas  emissions, new studies suggest the overall climate impact of flying could be closer to  5% of all global warming caused by all humans.

Quoting EU research, Maingreaud says someone flying on a return trip from London to New York generates the same emissions as the average EU citizen heating their home for one year.

“Unless DF&TR starts to act on climate change and are seen to be doing so by governments, investors and consumers, we risk appearing arrogant and out of touch with today’s travelling consumers.

“Some major players in our industry – brand-owners and retailers among them – are already active in this area. But even small steps matter, helping to create a sustainable mindset, and the cumulative effect of initially small actions taken by many can quickly become significant.”

In business terms, institutional investors are paying more attention to fund placements and the social and corporate governance approaches of companies.

Maingreaud then shed light on some interesting activities and initiatives, one of which is the TR Toolbox, an industry map showing the commercial activity of the world’s top 100 airports. In time, it will expand to other airports and channels, he confirmed.

Meanwhile, the DFWC Academy continues to strengthen, delivering accredited training modules to support frontline retail staff secure skills and qualifications.

Concluding, he said: “We have good reason to be confident in our own ability to meet the challenges confronting us if we can come together and act for the benefit of the industry as a whole.”


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