Robb Reader: Mohit Lal

The Pernod Ricard Global Travel Retail Chairman and CEO Mohit Lal on an industry in hyper-flux.

Hessel Waalewijn

Mohit Lal has led the Pernod Ricard Global Travel Retail business since its formation in 2017, which saw the consolidation of existing Pernod Ricard Travel Retail businesses in Asia Pacific, EMEA and Americas. Headquartered in London, PRGTR as it is commonly known by travel retail insiders is one of the must-win battlegrounds for Pernod Ricard, and is also its second largest market.   

What major changes did you feel were needed when you began your post?
There were four. Number one – ensuring we work more closely with other businesses within the group, particularly as consumers do not differentiate between travel retail and other channels. Two, driving stronger engagement between consumers and our brands. Three, developing a deeper understanding of travellers to better inform how we do business. And four, taking a synergistic view of driving strong strategic partnerships with our key customers, many of whom have a multi-continent presence. The biggest challenge when implementing change is making sure you take everyone involved on the journey. Change happens through people, so collaboration is crucial.

What are the major trends in the luxury global travel retail sector at the moment?
A key trend that we see is the broadening of luxury from a consumer perspective and the strong growth of affordable luxury. As the profile of international travellers broadens across socio-economic strata the definition of luxury changes. This needs to be kept in mind while building a portfolio and link to market strategies. The strong growth witnessed in the affordable luxury segment is an indication of how definitions are changing. The other is technology – which has shifted from a trend into something that will continually shape not just global travel retail, but commerce generally. Our data shows that travellers are using digital channels before their journeys to research their purchases. There is a great opportunity for brands to create value in the travel retail channel by  engaging with consumers before they get to the airport – so we’re reaching them not just in-store but trailing them outside too at every point on their journey

How differently do younger luxury travellers engage with specific brands and products?
There are generational differences between the two cohorts – younger luxury travellers are likely to be more influenced by what they see on online and social platforms. They also prize personalisation more highly than older luxury travellers. From a brand perspective, it means we need to create opportunities to capture and engage with younger luxury travellers in a way that not only creates social currency but is relevant and meaningful. As an example of this, this year Absolut Vodka engaged with a global community of artists to create limited edition wraps celebrating some of the world’s most iconic cities including Singapore, Dubai and Istanbul. The city wraps have proven popular with travellers, looking for a unique memento from their travels. In Changi Airport, Singapore, the country’s wrap release was accompanied by experiential areas including tasting bars that provided stunning backdrops for travellers to not only sample the product, but also to capture and share their experiences.

What trends do you see emerging in the future?
The increased sophistication of experiential retail is a perennial trend. We’ll continue to see brands and retailers pushing the boundaries in-store – and creating more immersive multi-sensorial experiences. Another significant trend in global travel retail is premiumisation. Travellers are buying more premium products each time they travel.

What’s your own personal definition of luxury? 
It’s not easy to define. Ask several people and I guarantee you’ll get different answers. I think the notion of luxury is changing and a person’s cultural background will influence how they perceive it.  Luxury – or indeed premiumisation – is not about price, for me; rather, it is defined by a number of modalities including quality, exclusivity and craftsmanship.

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