Lagardère Travel Retail, a division within the Lagardère group, has long been a global leader in the travel retail sector, with a presence across various categories including travel essentials, duty free & fashion, and Foodservice. Operating in 42 countries, Lagardère Travel Retail today manages a network of over 5,000 stores located in airports, railway stations, and other concessions.
In April 2023 the group announced strategic appointments in the region, with Keith Tam as the CEO of its North Asia division and Ann Pang as deputy CEO. Lagardère Travel Retail also introduced Travelwell, its autonomous convenience store, at Hong Kong International Airport. The innovative store allows passengers to enjoy a seamless grab-and-go shopping experience, eliminating the need to queue at traditional cashiers for checkout.
This month, in collaboration with Abu Dhabi Capital Group through their joint venture Lagardère Capital, Lagardère Travel Retail became one of the leading concessionaires in the new Terminal A at Abu Dhabi International Airport, unveiling a total of 12 duty-free stores and six food and beverage outlets, with further expansion planned for mid-2024.
Here, Retail in Asia speaks with Séverine Lanthier, chief development and strategy officer, and COO, Asia for Lagardère Travel Retail, to learn more about the company’s plans in Asia.
Lanthier returned to Lagardère Travel Retail after a tenure at Kering, where she held the positions of Gucci worldwide travel retail director and Kering Group global head of travel retail from 2015 onwards. Prior to her time at Kering, she served as CEO responsible for launching operations in China for Lagardère while driving various business development endeavours across Europe.
RiA: As a leading global travel retailer, can you tell us how Lagardère envisions its regional business in Asia in the coming few years?
Séverine Lanthier: Compared to other regions, Asia has experienced a slower recovery from the pandemic and doing business regionally still presents a number of challenges today. However, we are fully confident that within the medium term these challenges can be overcome and that the strong economic and demographic fundamentals underpinning growth in Asia are still in place.
To us, the region remains a beacon of growth and we are committed to continue investing in the development of our operations there.
RiA: How would you describe travel retail’s recovery in the markets where you are present in Asia Pacific?
Lanthier: Today, most markets where we operate in Asia are experiencing dynamic recoveries and catching up to 2019 levels. For Lagardère Travel Retail, Asia-Pacific has posted an impressive growth of +45.7 percent in the third quarter of 2023, in particular thanks to strong flows of domestic and regional passengers.
The restart in China is slightly below expectations but we remain very optimistic about the medium to long-term trends in the country, and are ready to take advantage of them thanks to our leading position in the country, both as an international and domestic leader.
RiA: Lagardère’s travel retail performance was up over 32 percent per the group’s first half results. How did your Asia business impact this improvement, and what growth opportunities do you foresee in the near future?
Lanthier: In the first half of 2023, business in Asia-Pacific has resumed after being severely disrupted by the health crisis in the first half of 2022, delivering growth of 61.8 percent. This performance was largely attributable to North Asia, with growth of 60 percent driven by the sharp recovery in Chinese domestic traffic in particular, and borders reopening more gradually.
We have always been actively developing our network, by gaining new markets and by consolidating existing partnerships. There are considerable opportunities to continue to do so, in Asia in particular, and we are pursuing them selectively. Our focus is to capitalize on our pioneering three-business line model to boost value creation and performance for both landlords and travellers.
RiA: Lagardère have recently appointed new leadership in North Asia as well as debuted a new shop at Hong Kong International Airport. What are some plans on growing your travel retail presence in these markets?
Lanthier: We have a strong new management team in place and we are confident that they will deliver our ambitious growth plan to reinforce our international leading position in Mainland China, as well as to realise new business opportunities in North Asia.
For example, we are very excited with the upcoming start of new operations at Kansai airports, where we’ll be opening Japan’s very first Duty Free walkthrough in partnership with our local partners, KRS.
In China and Hong Kong, we are continuing to build on our in-depth expertise of the luxury market and of Asian and PRC traveler’s expectations to consolidate our position. We also want to capitalize on our existing partnerships to further develop our excellence in both retail and dining and are happy to see more and more markets embracing our pioneering three-business line model.
Singapore has been the latest market to do so, with the launch of foodservice activities through the acquisition of the global restaurateur Marché International.
RiA: Are there future initiatives in Asia that excite you?
Lanthier: We see considerable opportunities to further develop our regional business, be it by entering new markets or by developing new business lines in existing ones. Asia will remain an engine of growth for the travel retail market and we are confident that we can play an important role in this growth story. So stay tuned for more updates as we continue to seize new regional opportunities.