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Pandemic impact on gifting in travel retail varies across regions and categories


The latest pandemic impact research on travel retail shopper behaviour from m1nd-set has revealed cross category and regional variations, in terms of the impact on gift shopping behaviour.

According to the Swiss research agency, the share of purchases made for gifting in North America hovered around the 38% level between 2017 and 2020, then increased to 47% in 2021, contrary to all other world regions. The global tendency to purchase gifts in duty free has gradually increased over the years until the pandemic, with the global share of purchases bought for gifting increasing from 38% in 2017 to 43% in 2019, before falling to 42% in 2020 and more sharply in 2021 to 31%. Similar increases and subsequent declines can be observed across all other regions; a sharp decline in 2021 was experienced in Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, where the steep decline in gift purchases occurred already in 2020.

According to m1nd-set, another outlier can be seen when analysing the five-year trend by category. For Gifting in the Confectionery category was stagnant between 2017 and 2020 with just over one quarter of shoppers purchasing confectionery for gifting; in 2021 however, this jumped to over one third – 34% – of
shoppers purchasing the category for gifting. The Souvenirs category shows the highest proportion of products purchased for gifting; more than seven out of ten shoppers purchased the category for gifting between 2017 and 2020, while less than two-thirds of shoppers (64%) purchased Souvenirs as gifts in 2021.

Sharp declines can be seen across all other categories, the m1nd-set research reveals. Gift shopping in Fashion & Accessories fell 13% in 2021, from 43% to 30% and 6% in Electronics, from 23% to 17%. The percentage of shoppers buying Tobacco as a gift has fallen steadily since 2018 with 30% of shoppers buying
the category for gifting in 2018, falling to 21% in 2021. Gifting of Alcohol products fell from the high 30s to 31% in 2020 and 2021. In Beauty the percentage of purchases made for gifting fell less steeply, from 34% to 30% between 2020 and 2021. In Jewellery & Watches 38% of shoppers purchased the category for gifting in 2021, down from 40% in 2019 and 2020.

One of the noteworthy trends that emerge from the research is the increase in staff interaction since international travel has resumed this year according to the m1nd-set research. The tendency to interact with sales staff fluctuated between 38% and 40% over the four years between 2017 and 2020, but this spiked in 2021 as 69% of shoppers have interacted with staff in store this year. More than eight out of ten shoppers said the interaction with staff encouraged them to purchase a product they would not have otherwise purchased in 2021, a significant increase on previous years when the number of shoppers reporting positive influence of sales staff fell from 55% to 49% between 2017 and 2020. m1nd-set owner and CEO Dr. Peter Mohn commented: “There are a number of challenges currently which are impacting gift shopping. We have already well documented over the past couple of years since the pandemic the significant increases in online shopping compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019. This trend has continued throughout 2021, albeit to a lesser extent than in 2020. However, it is still significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels.”

Mohn continued: “Given that product ranges are significantly greater online, consumers are naturally more intrigued by exclusives they can find only in travel retail. This year, the tendency to purchase travel retail exclusives for gifting has more than doubled compared to the share of travel retail exclusives for gifting in 2020 when 36% of shoppers purchased travel retail exclusives as gifts; this increased to 76% in 2021. Brands and retailers will need to be more creative and proactive in meeting shopper needs and demands to entice the shopper into stores, communicating well ahead of their arrival at the airport about the travel retail exclusives and new product launches.” Mohn concluded.

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