Role of gifting in global travel retail ‘declining significantly’, indicates data

By Kristiane Sherry |

Peter Mohn, Owner & CEO of m1nd-set.

Peter Mohn, Owner & CEO of m1nd-set.

Travel retail needs to rethink its consumer messaging around gifting as self-purchasing soars, new insights from travel retail research agency m1nd-set suggests.

Gift-purchasing fell by 13 percentage points from 40% of shoppers from 2017 to the first quarter of 2020, to just 27% from 2021 to Q1 2023, data shows.

Conversely, shopping for self-consumption has increased from 46% pre-pandemic to 53% in the first quarter of 2023. 

However regional variations suggest gifting is returning in some regions. Prior to the pandemic, 38% of Middle East and Africa shoppers purchased items for gifting. This fell to 27% and 31% respectively in 2022, before rebounding to 34% for both earlier this year.

The decline in gifting is more pronounced across the Americas and Europe. Prior to the pandemic, 41% of shoppers in the Americas purchased gifts in travel retail, falling to 26% in 2023. In Europe, 40% bought gifts in the channel pre-pandemic, compared to just 20% this year.

According to m1nd-set, the strongest gifting decline by age demographic was among middle-aged shoppers, with Millennials another group yet to resume gift shopping.

Gifting has declined and self-purchasing increased since the pandemic.

When segmented by binary gender, men showed the largest decline in gift purchasing, but this is now rebounding. 

The sharpest decline in all segments was among business travellers. Before the pandemic, 47% purchased gifts in GTR. This fell to 20% in 2022, but has recovered to 27% in the first quarter of 2023. 

Toys show greatest gifting decline

Prior to the pandemic, the toys category was the most gifted at 80%, falling to 41% in 2021 and recovering to 68% in 2023 Q1.

Souvenirs and gifts has almost recovered, falling from 73% to 59% in 2021, rebounding to 69% of purchases made as gifts.

Confectionery however is still experiencing less than half of the gifting levels seen prior to the pandemic. 

Electronics, health food and vitamins, and travel accessories have all made gifting gains. 

“Consumer communications need to focus on reworking the message to capture shoppers’ attention with other more impactful and motivating incentives to drive them into the duty free stores,” said Peter Mohn, m1nd-set Owner and CEO.

Gifting varies significantly by region, with recovery coming across the Middle East and Asia.

“The role of gifting as a driver both to visit the duty free and travel retail shops and purchase in store, has declined significantly.”

He added: “Value for money, convenience, brand loyalty, price advantage and differentiation remain the key purchase drivers in travel retail today.

“Travel Retail needs to rethink its positioning around the gift-purchasing opportunities. The pandemic has brought about a shift towards altruism and greater attention to people and the planet. 

“Consumers now tend to look how to give back more, and many new ideas for more meaningful long-distance gifting have emerged.”

Last month, m1nd-set shared data which showed Asia Pacific air traffic would see a “strong” revival with many locations reaching pre-pandemic levels in 2024.

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