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TFWA 2023 Back and Buzzing, with Beauty in Pole Position

Published October 15, 2023
Published October 15, 2023

A sold-out show and buyer/landlord numbers up by 15% versus 2019 confirmed what visitors already suspected—that the 38th Tax Free World Association (TFWA) World Exhibition & Conference reflected a generally very buoyant outlook for the duty-free and travel retail channel.

“We thought that the mood was great in 2022, but the atmosphere this year has reached another level,” said TFWA’s President, Erik Juul-Mortensen. “It is particularly gratifying to be able to welcome delegates from all parts of the world again.” Last year, delegates from the important Asia-Pacific region were sparse.

The global event took place from October 1–5 in Cannes, France and beauty was, by far, the leading category. Among the 481 brands listed by TFWA, 178 were from the perfumes and cosmetics arena—far ahead of the next biggest category of beverages (wine and spirits) with 118.

Visitor numbers to the event were, however, slightly down, with 7,385 this year compared to 7,531 in 2019.

TFWA said that there were a total of 450 exhibiting companies showcasing their products and services across 25,212 square meters (just over 270,000 square feet) of exhibition space in the Palais des Festivals, the same location as the Cannes Film Festival in May where L’Oréal Paris is a major sponsor. Brands at the TFWA show hosted larger stands than in previous years, according to the organizer.

Outside the Palais grounds, there were also 18 official exhibitors in the Harbor Village where companies were present on hired yachts. A large number of unofficial beauty players also took hotel suites and apartments in the city to meet with buyers and distributors.

New Records Set

The official numbers this year set new records for stand space, and for buyer/landlord numbers, which topped 2,750. There were also more than 90 new exhibitors, from eight sectors—26 of which were from beauty—coming from all corners of the globe.

The largest suppliers in travel retail beauty were all present—from Chanel, L’Oréal Travel Retail, Estée Lauder Companies, and LVMH Beauty, to Interparfums, L’Occitane Group, Revlon/Elizabeth Arden, and Shiseido Travel Retail. The TFWA show is possibly the only exhibition worldwide to gather such a prestigious roll call of big names in beauty under one roof.

Newcomer perfume and cosmetics brands/companies this year (or returning after an absence) included 3Lab from the US, South Korea’s Amorepacific, Argentum Apothecary from the UK, Dax Cosmetics from Poland, Italy’s L’Erbolario, Lumene from Finland, Sisley Paris, and Sterling Perfumes from the United Arab Emirates.

Warning Signs From New Report

During the exhibition, TFWA revealed details of a new report from management consulting firm Kearney, commissioned by the association. It reminded delegates that while the travel recovery was great news, passengers were spending less overall, and that the post-COVID "revenge buying" phenomenon, which has pushed up per-passenger spending, had peaked in 2020/21.

Kearney’s study, Travel Retail Faces Its Moment of Truth, estimated that spend per traveler for 2022 was $17 and had dropped below not just 2019 but the average for the period 2009–2018.

Moreover, consumers are increasingly challenging travel retail’s value proposition. For perfumes and cosmetics, Kearney says that “high pricing is the top reason not to buy” according to 37% of respondents in a survey of 2,081.

One senior beauty executive commented, “Price is not the only variable anymore. The story for the customer needs to evolve to include experience, sense of belonging, and a deeper understanding of brands.”

However, that comfort factor may be missing for some older shoppers. The report found big differences by generation. Of the respondents that mentioned price as a key motivator, boomers led with 42% while Gen X scored just 30%. Meanwhile, of those that cited the shopping experience as their main reason to buy, the tables were turned with Gen Z at 40% and boomers at only 14%.

The data imply that strong experiential animations at airports are more likely to win over Gen Z shoppers while boomers will often be indifferent to them and walk past. This is also a matter of perception. Pop-ups that are heavy on social media featuring very young-looking faces and gadgetry, are not necessarily going to appeal to older travelers who will think they are the not the target for such activations, and they would probably be right.


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