VIDEO: Travel Retail Awards winner Lagardère Travel Retail reflects on 2023

By Luke Barras-hill |

Dag Rasmussen, Chairman and CEO, Lagardère Travel Retail spoke candidly about the passenger traffic recovery and industry manoeuvring in the absence of key travelling nationalities.

Lagardère Travel Retail Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dag Rasmussen has evaluated a year marked out by a steady stream of international concession gains, numerous openings and purposeful expansion activity (click below to watch the video interview).

Speaking to TRBusiness in a video interview filmed during the recent TFWA World Exhibition & Conference, Rasmussen spoke openly about the Paris-headquartered travel retailer’s business curve in 2023.

Lagardère Travel Retail posted a 32.4% increase in like-for-like sales to reach €2,329 million in the first half of 2023, as international passenger traffic across its operating regions continued to recover in buoyant fashion.

“H1 was surprisingly good for those who didn’t believe in the rebound of traffic and very good for us as we see a global recovery, except for China,” said Rasmussen.

While most regions for the firm are experiencing robust gains – spend per pax in duty free across many European airports has now surpassed 2019 figures, notes Rasmussen – China remains the “difficult part”, though performances elsewhere are compensating for this variable.

Lagardère Travel Retail’s Chief stopped short of offering a forecast on the recovery trajectory for Chinese international traffic, merely stating the company is working hard to ensure strong in-store experiences to drive sales.

“Most importantly – and for the whole industry – is [the ability to] live without Chinese and Russians,” he continued.

“The idea is that when Chinese and hopefully Russians come back, it is added value,” he continued, signalling that the industry has perhaps been guilty in the past of neglecting Americans and other important local market travellers – including frequent flyers – that are important to growth metrics.

‘Future is Local’ earns consumer vote

Among a number of important retail gains this year, the company extended its contract at Auckland Airport until mid-2025 under a new single operator set-up and built on its 49% joint venture partnership in Extime Duty Free Paris after securing co-shareholder rights alongside Groupe ADP in the Extime Travel Essentials Paris joint venture following success in a competitive tender.

It won the travel essentials & duty free tenders at Marseille Provence Airport; signed a master concession agreement at Cotonou International Airport in Benin, West Africa; and crowned its presence at Abu Dhabi International Airport’s belated Terminal A opening by unveiling 18 duty free and F&B outlets over 5,200sq m under a master concessionaire contract for liquor, tobacco, confectionery and fine foods.

Lagardère Travel Retail’s proposal was also enough to seize the duty free concession rights for the northern airports (Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and Basque Country) in Spanish airport operator Aena’s blockbuster tender [Avolta won the rights to manage and operate the airport contracts in Andalusia-Mediterranean, the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands through subsidiary Canariensis, and consequently at Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas, Barcelona-El Prat, Reus and Girona-Costa Brava Airports – Ed].

Above and below: Lagardère Travel Retail emerged victorious in the ‘Best Sustainable Initiative 2023’ category, sponsored by Beam Suntory, in this year’s consumer-voted Global Travel Retail Awards for the travel retailer’s ‘Future is Local’ store concept.

Elsewhere, and in a notable achievement, Lagardère Travel Retail won ‘Best Sustainable Initiative 2023’, sponsored by Beam Suntory, in this year’s Global Travel Retail Awards for the ‘Future is Local’ store concept.

Present at Václav Havel Airport Terminal 2 in Prague under the auspices of Lagardère Travel Retail Czech Republic, Future is Local places an emphasis on conscious ranging in collaboration with brands and producers and a design vocabulary tilted towards minimising environmental impact.

For example, the furnishings produced locally combine sustainable, recycled and reclaimed materials such as recycled wood and vinyl flooring made from PET bottles with a view towards end-of-life recycling.

Rasmussen explains that the company’s commitment to sustainable development remains “close to my heart”. This is demonstrated by a CSR representative having been present on the company’s executive committee for more than a decade, as it continues to drive forward its PEPS (Planet. Ethics. People. Social) CSR roadmap.

Rasmussen said: “[Sustainability] is something we’ve worked on a long time… it’s interesting as all our suppliers speak about it, so it’s really top of the agenda. I think that’s great for the industry.”

Elsewhere, the travel retailer revealed this month an agreement with Kansai Airports Retail & Services (KRS) to supply the new duty free walkthrough store at Kansai International Airport (KIX) Terminal 1.

Supply agreement at KIX T1

As reported, the Kansai Airports consortium opened its refreshed airside commercial space housing around 27 new retail, F&B, boutique and service units, including the 2,500sq m KIX Duty Free walkthrough store run by Kansai Airports Retail & Services, on 5 December.

The development comes as Japan looks ahead to hosting the Expo 2025 in Osaka, with an increasing number of international travellers set to pass through KIX’s glossy new walkthrough shop.

For its part, Lagardère Travel Retail will look to apply its strong knowledge of Asian and international traveller profiles in its supply of globally renowned brands spanning alcohol, beauty, tobacco and confectionery, while introducing first-to-Japan brands in duty free such as Maison Margiela and Valentino.

Lagardère will support KRS in bringing to life shopping experiences via brand activation spaces, with the latter developing a curated selection of local merchandise spotlighting Japanese culture and craftsmanship.

Lagardère Travel Retail is supplying an extensive range of high-end, globally recognised brands in beauty, liquor, tobacco and confectionery to the new KIX Duty Free walkthrough store at Kansai International Airport Terminal 1 through a partnership with Kansai Airports Retail & Services.

Commenting on the announcement, Keith Tam, CEO of Lagardère Travel Retail North Asia, said: “We see tremendous growth prospects for the duty free market in Japan and we are very excited to have the opportunity to co-create a bespoke partnership with KRS.

“The Kansai Core Duty Free will bring many innovations to the Japanese duty free landscape and will offer unique features designed to elevate the overall passenger experience at the airport. An extraordinary selection of brands has been curated to offer customers the optimal choice.”

Fumio Owada, KRS Representative Director and President, added: “This walkthrough duty free store is positioned as a critical store in providing worthwhile and enhanced shopping experiences to our customers in the new international area. We are looking forward to maximising the business values of this duty free store with this new partnership with Lagardère Travel Retail Japan with its international insight and expertise and its extensive network.”

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