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Confessions of a retailer: World Duty Free Group

The global head of liquor and tobacco at World Duty Free Group, David de Miguel, talks all things travel retail, from the need for innovation to gin being the “in” category.

David de Miguel confesses all about his job to The Spirits Business

Innovation is key for us when deciding upon a new product, and this can be in terms of flavour or product packaging and presentation. We are basically looking for something that gives a point of difference or provides an intriguing back story.

Where a product is made can be of real interest to us as it’s good to feature locally made products in our stores. Heritage can also be an important consideration, particularly when looking at whisky and Cognac. Price is also significant and our range includes both value and premium products so we’re able to look at a broad spectrum of price points.

Generally, the suppliers will be the ones to approach us with a new product. If we can see it being a good commercial fit for our business and strategy, we will give it serious consideration. Good examples of approaches from suppliers, which have resulted in products being included in our stores, are Bulldog Gin and Martin Miller’s Gin.

In terms of categories in Europe, vodka and gin are experiencing really strong sales growth and customer interest at the moment, with Cîroc, Smirnoff, Hendrick’s and Tanqueray performing well. Both these segments are being driven by standard, premium and super-premium variants.

There are certainly seasonal variations to be seen in terms of the best selling spirits, but our top selling products tend to be consistent throughout the year. There is a definite spike in gin and vodka sales in spring and summer, while darker spirits show an increase in sales during the autumn and winter months.

All of our consumer insight surveys say that price is one of the top three variables that customers look for when purchasing in our stores. However, product differentiation (versus what can be found on the high street) is important for us and we offer a wide range of travel exclusive products and super-premium liquors.

But there are many other factors that also influence customers’ purchasing decisions. The “gifting concept” is getting stronger all the time. Sometimes customers are looking for well-known, familiar brands – the products they really love and always want to drink.

However, customers may also be looking for new spirits to try and new drinks to discover. Our airport outlets are the perfect place to do this as our range appeals to different profiles and nationalities, and we have the opportunity to offer many tastings in store.

We are a global business, so being able to manage customers’ value perceptions against a backdrop of significant currency and excise variations by country is one of the main challenges of my job. Working with the many different regulations and liquor allowances in different countries is also something we have to ensure we abide by.

I find the whole experiential aspect of the job incredibly enjoyable, be it the many tastings of innovative products, visits to distilleries and interaction with people who are just so skilled and passionate about liquor, such as master blenders. The world of spirits is a very diverse and endlessly fascinating one.

Gin has to be the most exciting category for me right now – it’s a very “on-trend” spirit and there’s so much innovation coming through, with the emergence of more micro-distilleries producing their own niche or boutique gins, all of which bring real revolution to the category.

You can’t pinpoint an “average” customer when it comes to World Duty Free Group. Our customer profile is anyone and everyone who travels and includes people buying liquor as a gift for others, connoisseurs looking for the most exclusive or premium Cognacs and whiskies – the list goes on.

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