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A drink with… Edna Seah, Edrington

With traveller numbers picking up, there’s much to look forward to in the duty free channel, as Edna Seah, marketing director of global travel retail (GTR) at Edrington, explains.

*This feature was originally published in the October 2021 issue of The Spirits Business magazine.

Edna Seah, Edrington
Edna Seah, marketing director GTR, Edrington
How has Edrington’s GTR business performed during the pandemic?

It’s been a challenging period for sure, but there are clear signs of recovery now, which is extremely promising. One of the real beacons for our business has been the resilience of The Macallan Boutiques – our standalone stores at Dubai DXB, London Heathrow, Taiwan and New York JFK. Ultimately, we never saw these stores as being primarily reliant on footfall volumes, so even when traffic at these airports has been significantly reduced, they’ve still performed extremely well.

How will you adapt for the future of GTR, especially with more people travelling internationally now?

A major focus for our business during the pandemic has been our digital journey. We recently launched our digital activation in support of the launch of The Macallan Concept No.3. We’ve really sought to bring the collaboration with graphic designer David Carson to life digitally through a virtual experience that is truly immersive but easily accessible. Even as international travel picks up, we’re conscious we need to extend our reach beyond physical stores and allow travellers to engage with our brands on every step of their journey.

How is Edrington GTR adjusting to the re-establishment of duty free shopping between the UK and Europe after Brexit?

It is key that we make sure that any travellers encountering our brands in duty free for the first time are met with the most compelling products – including travel retail exclusives – and experiences to recruit them into our brand. We’re fortunate to have a very strong presence at London Heathrow T5 in the form of The Macallan Boutique awaiting travellers looking to purchase something special.

Why does The Macallan single malt continue to be the central focus of Edrington’s portfolio?

The Macallan is recognised as the world’s most valuable single malt and a brand that has established itself as a leader in the single malt and broader luxury spirits categories in travel retail. It has incredible brand equity with whisky enthusiasts, connoisseurs and collectors, and is actively sought out in our channel, particularly in limited edition and ultra‐exclusive formats.

Will any brands be receiving an additional push?

Our strategy remains consistent in GTR, based around leading with The Macallan and making other investments across our portfolio in countries, such as Brugal rum in the Dominican Republic and Highland Park whisky in Europe, for example. Additionally, through our strategic partnership with Berry Bros & Rudd, we will be launching No.3 London Dry Gin in global travel retail in 2022.

Which brands and markets will be a priority for Edrington?

The Macallan will continue to be a priority – recruiting new consumers and continually engaging with them. From a regional perspective we will monitor our recovery across the regions. Hainan in China is a hotspot for our industry, with huge investments being made in retail facilities backed by a very supportive government, which is set to make the entire area exclusively duty free by 2025.

How do you see the whisky category developing?

Innovation will continue to push the category forward – particularly when it comes to the recruitment of younger consumers. Digital is at the heart of this, but storytelling is also key. How do we bring our brands and their incredible histories to life in ways that resonate with consumers that are digital natives and used to engaging with brands through an ever-increasing range of channels? Thankfully with a brand like The Macallan, rich storytelling is part of its DNA.

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