It’s the journey that matters

13 October, 2016

Champagne could do better in travel retail, says Giles Fallowfield, and producers are actively trying to up their game


IF WE LOOK AT THE overall travel retail sector, including airport shops, cruise liners, ferries and what is sold or given away on board aeroplanes, we are contemplating a champagne market of a shade over 9m bottles. To put this in perspective, in 2015 9.21m bottles of champagne were shipped to Belgium and 8.11m bottles to Australia, respectively the sixth and seventh largest markets for champagne. Travel retail then slips in between these two, but its importance as the premier ‘shop window’ for brand champagne worldwide makes it arguably extra special.

Bald statistics don’t, of course, give us the complete picture. While we can be pretty comfortable the figure for Australia is near to champagne consumption Down Under, we know that Belgian consumption of champagne is much higher than this.

It’s only around 170 miles from Brussels to Reims by road and a considerably shorter distance – barely two hours’ drive – from most of southern Belgium. If a Belgian champagne lover wants to stock-up on fizz, they just nip over the border and fill their car boot. Ask any grower producer who sells at the cellar door.

Wherever you put travel retail in the top 10 market pecking order, 9m-plus bottles is a significant chunk of sales, even if it’s slightly down on the 9.35m bottles IWSR says were accounted for by this sector in 2014. Travel retail has around a 3% market share of all champagne sales, which makes it important to the Champenois, and around a 7.5% share of ‘premium’ champagne sales – fizz that’s sold at U$30 plus – which adds to the attraction. As Jean-Christian de la Chevalerie, key accounts international director of Laurent-Perrier, points out: “Travel retail is known as the ‘sixth continent’, this is true for fashion, fragrances, cosmetics and tobacco. For spirits it’s massive, for whisky it’s huge.”


The travel retail sector is expanding, while it’s also changing and developing at a rapid pace as the major operators around the world apply an increasingly sophisticated approach in their outlets to seduce travelling consumers into buying. In terms of flying numbers, while low-cost airlines are driving the growth, says De la Chevalerie – he points to the huge order for 200-plus Airbus 320s by Indonesia low-cost carrier Lion Air – their passengers are still interested in the shopping opportunities. There’s plenty of evidence of further Asian development on and off the ground with Garuda Indonesia also confirming an order for 14 Airbus 330s earlier this year.

Like other producers DI has spoken to, he sees the Middle East and Asia as the areas where the growth is going to come from. “Abu Dhabi is planning a huge expansion with its new Midfield terminal, which will have 28,000sq m of commercial space, due to open in December 2017. This year it expects 10% passenger growth even before that expansion is complete. In China, while there are two huge hubs [Beijing and Shanghai], there are another 90 airports in the country and, although champagne remains a very small category there, the potential for growth is significant.”

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