Shenzhen Bao’an Airport's luxury boulevard.Lagardère Travel Retail
France’s Lagardère Travel Retail has expanded its luxury reach in China’s airports with a string of boutique openings in the new Tianfu Airport in Chengdu, while also upgrading an existing luxury boulevard in Shenzhen Bao’an Airport.
The brand new $10 billion Tianfu gateway started operations at the end of June. In phase one alone it can manage 60 million passengers, but is likely to process half that number while international travel remains forbidden. Its predecessor airport served 55.8 million passengers in 2019 making it the fourth busiest gateway in the country.
Lagardère’s contribution to the retail offer includes a dozen or so high-end fashion and accessory brands, some of which are opening for the first time in a domestic airport terminal in China. Among the brands are Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Bulgari, Burberry, Gucci, MaxMara, Moncler, Omega, Saint Laurent and Valentino.
All the boutiques are positioned in a smart airside area after security, with a private VIP lounge underscoring the shopping experience and the audience the duty-free and travel-retail operator is targeting.
In addition, the retailer is opening some food and beverage (F&B) units including a Costa Coffee—the first of several under a partnership between the two companies; a Godiva Café, and Japan’s Ajisen Ramen. The F&B elements are in keeping with Lagardère’s multi-segment strategy, which helped reduce its revenue collapse last year to 60% versus competitors in the travel retail space like Heinemann (down 67%) and Dufry (down 71%).
Aerial view of the vast Chengdu Tianfu International Airport on May 16, 2021. (Photo by VCG/VCG via ... [+] Getty Images)Visual China Group via Getty Images
18-boutique master concession
Meanwhile at Shenzhen Bao’an—which transported 52.9 million passengers in 2019—Lagardère has completed a renovation of its existing luxury fashion and accessories offer in the domestic terminal.
New brands have been added to the upgraded master-concession which now consists of 18 boutiques spanning over 18,300 square feet. In addition to the brands mentioned above (at Tianfu), the retail concepts include Cartier, Chanel (beauty and accessories), Coach, Emporio Armani, Ermenegildo Zegna, Hugo Boss, Jimmy Choo, Kenzo, MCM, Rimowa, Salvatore Ferragamo, Stuart Weitzman and Tory Burch.
Like, Tianfu, a private lounge is also available to VIP guests. Through a partnership with the airport, a concierge team offers passengers services like curbside greeting, fast check-in, and limousine transport as part of a super-indulgent shopping experience.
Catering to demanding tastes
Eudes Fabre, CEO for North Asia at Lagardère Travel Retail, commented: “The expectations of domestic travelers in China are different than in the duty-free channel and on the High Street, so we have developed a bespoke approach to serving this market. China has become the most important market for most luxury brands so we constantly strive to meet the evolving expectations of China’s discerning travelers.”
Boutiques from Valentino and Moncler at Tianfu Airport, China.Lagardère Travel Retail
So discerning in fact that passengers in domestic airports don’t expect to see any major differences in the product offer or shopping experience versus downtown when it comes to luxury brands. Sabrina Wang, Lagardère Travel Retail’s chief operating officer for luxury in Asia, said: “Travelers in China are sophisticated and demanding. A strong understanding of trends and a reactive approach to merchandising are key factors for success.”
In its Spring 2021 update on the global luxury business, Bain said that China continued to “rebound across all channels, categories and price points”. That comes on top of Mainland China’s luxury goods market growing by 48% last year to reach nearly $54 billion.
The inability of the Chinese to travel abroad has fueled travel at home and more spending on high-end goods at airport domestic terminal than in the past. Shenzhen Airport, for example, has seen a strong traffic recovery following last year’s Covid-19 crisis.
Bain also points to the arrival of a new customer force—the alpha female—playing a central role in both purchasing and influencing a purchase. And while key luxury hubs such as Shanghai and Beijing leading the recovery with the best growth rates, the consultancy says that Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities and local resort locations like Hainan are becoming increasingly relevant.
That is good new for Lagardere which has spread its wings widely. After launching retail operations in China in 2007, it is now present in 28 airports and 30 high-speed rail stations through a network of over 400 stores spanning luxury and duty-free, to travel essentials and F&B.