Comment: Getting travel retail exclusives in eyewear right

Some 54% of travellers say they are interested in buying unique or exclusive sunglasses in travel retail channels, and that figure climbs to 62% when we focus on what millennials think.

That was one of the fascinating insights from a bespoke research piece conducted by m1nd-set for the annual Sunglasses Workshop in Cannes, writes Luxottica Group Global Channels Director Alessandro Pozzi.

Alessandro Pozzi: Retailer, airport and brand online platforms need to be leveraged together to spread the word on travel retail exclusives

This rising demand for exclusivity has opened a lot of eyes in the sunglasses category across both brand owners and retailers. It’s an area that a few of us have dipped our toes into – Luxottica launched its first Ray-Ban travel exclusive set back in 2010 – but most pioneering initiatives in this area could be considered a ‘learning experience’ at best.

If ever you wanted an example of how consumer behaviour and attitudes towards buying sunglasses in travel retail have changed, it’s in the rapid rise in demand for exclusives. To give credit where it’s due, brand owners have responded quickly. From Luxottica’s perspective, 2019 has been our busiest year ever for channel and retailer exclusive launches, from brands such as Prada, Miu Miu, Bvlgari, Coach, Burberry, Ray-Ban and Oakley. Our category colleagues have made similar introductions.

Travel retailers are now benefiting from a huge amount of channel specific product innovation that provides clear differentiation for their offer and new brand stories to be told. Bravo to all.

It is easy to get carried away with the hype of these launches, but I want to keep us grounded and honest. Are these exclusives really working? Are they driving incremental gains? Is it worth the investment?

I have considered these questions in detail, and my conclusion is firmly that ‘yes, they are worth it’ and that they have cemented their place in many travellers’ shopping journeys. But exclusives need to be executed in the right way to maximise the opportunities. Here are some of the key learnings:

  • Digital communication is crucial to conversion
  • Some 34% of all sunglasses shoppers in travel retail interacted with the category prior to travel via online channels – researching, reviewing and planning their eyewear purchase. We have to be informing these consumers about travel retail exclusive products at this stage, or else we can forget about making gains.

    Retailer, airport and brand online platforms need to be leveraged together to spread the word; it has to be targeted and provide a cost-effective way of communicating. Content on Instagram, WeChat, Weibo, Facebook and other platforms creates awareness, placing the exclusives at the top of travellers’ wish-lists and driving traffic in-store.

    For example, when we launched our exclusive Prada sunglasses with DFS earlier this year, we had a comprehensive marketing campaign that amplified the news of this collaboration. The frames were featured prominently on DFS’ digital and social media platforms, including their Instagram page, website and e-newsletter, as well as during their festive-themed campaigns.

    Looking ahead, virtual try-ons and pre-order is probably the next frontier to conquer here.

  • In-store visibility avoids a needle in haystack
  • Any half credible sunglasses offer will have hundreds of SKUs on display. A travel retail exclusive needs to be given the chance to stand out from this crowd. Bespoke merchandising, on-shelf communication and in-store digital support all help to highlight a product that is simply not available in other channels and to show the traveller that this is the moment to buy this item.

  • Focus on Asia, but not exclusively
  • A lot of recent travel retail exclusives have been Asia-focused – after all, the Chinese traveller is a growing demographic and an important consumer base. But to generate full incremental gains, we need to leverage the distribution potential of travel retail worldwide. A well-executed global campaign helps to justify the investment from a brand perspective, and can capitalise on Europe, the Middle East and Africe (EMEA) and the Americas as very large eyewear markets in travel retail and domestically.

  • A&P on a few SKUs is not unlimited
  • Brand owners need retailers to play their role in travel retail exclusive launches. Beyond the new product development costs, the advertising & promotional (A&P) budgets for a few individual models will have their limits. Retailer platforms – both digital and in-store – tend to come at a cost, but let us not make these costs inhibitive to the success of the launch and impede our chances of a return on investment. I would argue that these slots should come without charge and all parties can share in the upside.

    Alessandro Pozzi can be reached by email at

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