Stoli Group is homing in on an opportunity to target a growing number of young adult leisure travellers flying in and out of second-tier cities, which the company has identified as a potential growth area following the initial impact of the pandemic.
“The travel retail industry has undoubtedly been one of the hardest hit as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and while we are all confident that it will eventually rebound strongly, it is not going to be the same as it was – many consumers and shoppers will now be thinking and acting very differently,” said Graeme Harlow, Managing Director, Asia Pacific and Global Travel Retail of Stoli Group.
“We think it is going to be a lot more democratised, with a higher number of leisure travellers and fewer business travellers flying with low-cost carriers from second-tier airports, shopping for different kinds of products compared to what we were used to in 2019. I think it will be a long time before business travel returns to what it was due to the rise of remote and home working.
“Furthermore, before the pandemic, Chinese travellers were making up a significant share of spend and growth and I think it will be a while before they come back as there is a lot of conservatism around travel.”
Harlow sees this new wave of young adult leisure travellers as “more adventurous” when it comes to “buying new things” in the channel as a result of taking an extended break from travel.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “Retailers and suppliers may need to recalibrate the product mix. Looking at the spirits category, we may see tequilas and other agave-based liquors rise in popularity as when you’re a leisure traveller and you go on holiday you want to bring back a taste of the destination.
“I think we are going to see more leading names in retail explore opportunities at second-tier airports where we predict this shift in the passenger demographic to be felt. We see a lot of opportunity there.”
Stoli Group is supporting the TRBusiness and m1nd-set organised TR Consumer Forum 2022 (4-6 September at the Parklane, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Limassol, Cyprus) as an Opening Cocktail sponsor.
Harlow sees the event as a looking glass that will help industry stakeholders to understand shifting consumer behaviours such as those he highlights above.
“It is critical that we all understand more about what these changes are likely to be so that we can respond accordingly, and I think the forum provides the perfect opportunity to provide that understanding,” he said.
“Apart from the insights to be gleaned from the sessions, of course, I am looking forward to the opportunity to meet and reconnect with so many colleagues from around the world and to catch up on some of this kind of interaction that we have been so desperately missing over the past few years.”
Stoli, which has a 12-strong portfolio of ultra-premium spirits and wines, including its namesake Stoli Vodka, is currently in a phase of “rapid expansion” with a number of new products to talk about.
“Amongst our key priorities are the introduction of the Cenote Tequila and Kentucky Owl portfolios, which are very well positioned to contribute to the rapid growth we are currently seeing in the premium tequila and American whiskey segments,” said Harlow.
The ultra-premium Cenote Tequila is being showcased at the TR Consumer Forum with a specially created signature agua fresca that is being shaken and stirred for the Opening Cocktail on Sunday 4 September.
The traditional Mexican fruit-based drink with a twist is being served in glass jar style containers.
Other recent launches that are still in “very early stages of execution” in the travel retail channel include The Wiseman Kentucky Straight Bourbon and Rye, the latest offerings from the Kentucky Owl trademark.
In addition, there is Tulchan Gin, a London Dry gin with a juniper forward and citrus notes balanced by Tulcha Estate botanicals, such as sloe berries, blackberry leaf and elderflower.
Harlow’s biggest lesson learned as a result of the pandemic is to “expect the unexpected”.
“In every crisis there is also opportunity, and it is those that stay focused on finding opportunities that will ultimately emerge stronger,” said Harlow.
“We must be restless in seeking to understand our consumers/shoppers and excite them with bold, new and interesting innovations and executions – let’s really give them a reason to come back into travel retail in a big way.”