Back in 2018, it was announced that Suzy Smith would replace Igor Boyadjian as Edrington Global Travel Retail Managing Director. Formerly Marketing Director for the company’s Regional Power Brands business, which includes The Famous Grouse, Brugal rum and Cutty Sark, Smith led the Edrington DF&TR business through a very positive 2019.
Despite the challenging start to 2020 due to the Covid-19 outbreak, Smith tells TRBusiness that the company’s focus remains on premiumisation and consumer engagement.
How would you assess the performance of Edrington Global Travel Retail in 2019 and what is DF&TR vision for 2020, taking into account the challenging start?
2019 was a very positive year for our business. The major focus was the rollout of The Macallan Boutique programme, with openings in Dubai and London significant milestones. We’re already delighted with the early results, not only from a sales perspective but also in terms of consumer engagement and brand-building.
This year will clearly be challenging, but our vision remains focused on premiumisation and consumer engagement. We’ll continue the expansion of The Macallan Boutique programme and have a strong calendar of product innovation, supported by in-store activation and engagement.
How important is to be able to tell the story of The Macallan brand through concepts such as the recent film campaign at Hong Kong, Singapore and Macau International Airports?
Storytelling lies at the heart of The Macallan’s brand DNA and has been key to the brand’s success in travel retail. Our stunning new distillery and visitor centre (pictured at bottom) is an incredibly powerful asset that we want to bring to life as strongly as possible around the world, giving travellers an opportunity to experience our spiritual home.
This will continue to be a focus of our boutique programme as well as many aspects of our in-store, promotional and product development strategy.
How much emphasis will you continue to place on duty free and travel retail exclusives and why?
We know that shoppers in this channel are looking for something different and exclusive, whether as a gift, for self-consumption or for a collection, so travel retail exclusives will continue to be a point of emphasis for sure.
Do you intend on opening more Macallan Boutiques in 2020 and why? How much emphasis will you continue to place on activations in partnerships with retailers and why?
We will be making some more announcements in due course about the boutique programme. We feel this format allows us to deliver an incredibly powerful brand experience and is a fantastic way of engaging with consumers at key locations. But we’re also aware that space is at a premium and we are very selective about potential locations for boutiques.
Therefore, activations will continue to be an important way of bringing our brand to life. In both cases, airport location, passenger mix and type and quality of space will all dictate our approach and level of investment.
What do you believe are the main trends in the duty free and travel retail whisky segment and why?
Through The Macallan, we’ve really been focused on spearheading the premiumisation of the single malt category. With our boutique programme, we’ve put the brand on a par with true luxury brands in terms of presentation and retail experience.
Aside Covid-19, what are the main challenges facing the whisky category and why?
I don’t think the challenges in this category are particular to the whisky segment, but as always there are tough discussions to be had in balancing margin demands from retailers with the need for innovation. Space also remains a challenge, not only in terms of account but also quality. As we continue to premiumise our portfolio, we’re increasingly selective about the spaces where we present our brands.
How does Edrington find the balance between driving innovation and staying true to its heritage and tradition?
Firstly, I think with The Macallan we’re fortunate that innovation has long been part of its heritage — whether that’s the famous advertising campaigns of the 1980’s or the successful collaborations we’ve had in the past with artists and photographers in particular.
Secondly, it’s fair to say that our innovation is firmly focused on highlighting The Macallan’s heritage and tradition, rather than diluting it or moving in a totally new direction.