Virgin Voyages and Harding+ part ways; Starboard incoming cruise retail partner

By Faye Bartle |

Sally Barford, Associated Vice President of Hotel Partnerships, Virgin Voyages.

Sally Barford, Associated Vice President of Hotel Partnerships, Virgin Voyages.

Virgin Voyages and Harding+ have mutually agreed to part ways, following six years of collaboration. LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton company Starboard Cruise Services has been announced as the travel brand’s new cruise retail partner.

In a statement released today, Harding+ has said that it will commence a withdrawal process beginning in April.

Moving forward in 2023, Starboard Cruise Services will be working with Virgin Voyages to continue offering passengers an ‘elevated on-board retail experience’ featuring a curated portfolio of much-loved luxury brands, including custom-designed collections and memorable shopping experiences for guests to discover onboard Virgin’s Lady Ships.

“For more than six years, we’ve enjoyed an incredible partnership with Harding and their team, but we’ve mutually decided that it’s time for both brands to explore what’s next,” said Sally Barford, Associated Vice President of Hotel Partnerships, Virgin Voyages.

Lisa Bauer, President and CEO of Starboard Cruise Services and Onboard Media.

Lisa Bauer, President and CEO of Starboard Cruise Services and Onboard Media commented, “We are thrilled to be partnering with Virgin Voyages and can’t wait to introduce our amazing team and stellar assortment of brands, products, and experiences to Sailors on all ships.”

Virgin Voyages, Sir Richard Branson’s brand of adults only cruise ships, has made waves for its relaxed yet luxurious ocean-going holidays for travellers aged 18 and over.

In its planning phases, the company had a vision to create a high-end shopping experience at sea, driven by Branson’s passion for sustainability, which was brought to life together with Harding+ in 2017.

Together, the companies introduced a number of established retail brands onboard, including the first Mac Cosmetics store at sea.

Seeking out ‘new and interesting’ fashion, beauty, jewellery, swimwear and skincare options has been a key focus, as has securing a solid representation of ethically sourced labels.

For example, Coral Eyewear offers stylish sunglasses made from recycled ocean plastics while Yellow Leaf Hammocks (prominently featured on every Sea Terrace balcony and also sold onboard) are hand-woven by craftswomen from the Mlabri Tribe in the hills of northern Thailand.

Harding+ CEO James Prescott.

Harding+ CEO James Prescott.

As such, the partnership has given rise to a comprehensive onboard retail space in Virgin Voyages’ High Street Shops that included lifestyle areas with a variety of products displayed alongside each other in ‘unconventional’ ways.

“We have had great fun leading the cruise retail proposition and working as two innovative companies with shared values for six years,” said Harding+ CEO James Prescott.

“But sometimes we need to part as friends and make some tough choices together around what’s right for business and commercial models.

“We wish everyone at Virgin Voyages the very best, and will be working hard to redeploy the Harding+ team members who have been part of the Virgin ship teams elsewhere into our community.”

Harding+ currently operates more than 300 shops on over 100 different cruise ships.

“We have 13 new ships launching with Harding+ as their retail partner and have many more opportunities for onboard teams, so we feel extremely positive those new roles will be found as our business continues to grow at pace and we continue to innovate in all aspects of cruise retail operations,” added Prescott.

“We of course remain focussed on achieving our business plan.”

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