French Lagardère Travel Retail has extended its luxury reach at Chinese airports with a series of store openings at the new Tianfu Airport in Chengdu, while upgrading an existing luxury boulevard at Shenzhen Bao’an Airport.

The all-new $ 10 billion Tianfu Gateway began operations at the end of June. In the first phase, it can handle 60 million passengers, but is expected to handle half of them while international travel remains prohibited. Its predecessor welcomed 55.8 million passengers in 2019, making it the fourth busiest gateway to the country.

Lagardère’s contribution to the commercial offering includes around ten high-end fashion and accessories brands, some of which are opening for the first time in a domestic airport terminal in China. Brands include Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Bulgari, Burberry, Gucci, MaxMara, Moncler, Omega, Saint Laurent and Valentino.

All stores are positioned in a smart airside area after security, with a private VIP lounge highlighting the shopping experience and target audience of the duty-free and travel-retail operator.

In addition, the retailer is opening food and beverage (F&B) units, including a Costa Coffee, the first of several as part of a partnership between the two companies; a Godiva Café and Ajisen Ramen from Japan. The F&B elements are part of Lagardère’s multisectoral strategy, which reduced the collapse in its turnover last year to 60% compared to competitors in the travel retail sector such as Heinemann (-67% ) and Dufry (-71%).

Master concession of 18 shops

Alongside Shenzhen Bao’an, which carried 52.9 million passengers in 2019, Lagardère completed the renovation of its existing luxury fashion and accessories offering in the domestic terminal.

New brands have been added to the modernized master-concession which now consists of 18 stores covering over 18,300 square feet. In addition to the brands mentioned above (at Tianfu), 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.

As in Tianfu, a private lounge is also available to VIP guests. Through a partnership with the airport, a team of concierges provide passengers with services such as curbside greetings, express check-in and limousine transportation for an ultra-indulgent shopping experience.

Catering with demanding tastes

Eudes Fabre, Managing Director North Asia of Lagardère Travel Retail, said: “The expectations of domestic travelers in China are different from those of the duty-free circuit and the High Street, so we have developed a tailor-made approach to serve this market. China has emerged as the most important market for most luxury brands, so we constantly strive to meet the ever-changing expectations of discerning Chinese travelers.

So demanding in fact that domestic airport passengers do not expect to see major differences in product offering or shopping experience compared to downtown when it comes to luxury brands. Sabrina Wang, Luxury Operations Director of Lagardère Travel Retail in Asia, said: “Travelers in China are sophisticated and demanding. A good understanding of trends and a responsive approach to merchandising are key success factors.

In its spring 2021 update on the global luxury sector, Bain said China continues to “bounce back across all channels, categories and prices.” This comes on top of the 48% growth of the luxury goods market in mainland China last year to nearly $ 54 billion.

The inability of Chinese to travel abroad has resulted in domestic travel and more spending on premium products at the airport’s domestic terminal than in the past. Shenzhen Airport, for example, has seen a strong upturn in traffic after last year’s Covid-19 crisis.

Bain also highlights the arrival of a new customer force – the alpha woman – playing a central role in both the purchase and the influence of a purchase. And while major luxury centers such as Shanghai and Beijing lead the recovery with the best growth rates, the consulting firm says Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities and local resort sites like Hainan are becoming increasingly popular. more relevant.

This is good news for Lagardère, who has widely spread his wings. After launching retail operations in China in 2007, it is now present in 28 airports and 30 high-speed train stations through a network of more than 400 stores covering luxury and duty-free, travel essentials. and catering.