NPD Travel Retail Logo

Welcome to NPD Travel Retail

(formerly Counter Intelligence Retail)

We specialize in global traveler statistics, data driven insight, and activating against trends for all major categories sold in duty free and travel retail.

Skip to main content

Revealing the light and dark sides of duty free liquor

Passengers buying alcohol in duty free are either strict with their pre-planning, or adventurous with their impulsiveness – and it all depends on which liquor sub-category they have their eye on.

This is one of the top-line conclusions of an extensive new study from CiR analysts. The online study examines in detail, the buying habits of travelling shoppers in the second most important product category after beauty and points to an individual treatment of the segments to get the best out of the category. Some 7,738 visitors to the alcohol section were surveyed, all of whom had flown internationally in the past 12 months. Their answers were compared against a total sample of just under 22,800.

One of the key findings was that alcohol, as a category, can be driven through impulse buys – for which innovative solutions and rotated ranges are key – or through pre-planned purchases. “What is key is that each sub-category behaves differently,” says the report.

Overall, 59% plan their drinks purchase and 41% buy on impulse but the study found that lighter spirits tend to drive impulse, whilst darker spirits prompt pre-planning. Sub-categories most likely to be impulse drivers are: Gin (49%), Chinese White Spirits (48%), Wine/Champagne (46%) and Tequila (46%). Among regions, European and Middle Eastern/African travellers are more likely to purchase on impulse at 46% and 48% respectively.

Rum, Whisky and Brandy are the three segments that travellers are more careful about researching at 64%, 60% and 57% respectively – in all cases a high proportion of shoppers. By region, Americas and Asia Pacific travellers plan their alcohol purchases the most at 63% and 69% respectively.

“Where impulse defines consumer spend – as with lighter spirits – sampling tables and an innovation space, ideally located at the front of the store, are key elements to driving incremental spend” comments Garry Stasiulevicuis, Founder and President of CiR. “For sub-categories that favour pre-planning, namely dark spirits, then Internet availability or clearly-displayed price information – as well as signage, POS and store flow – will all aid and encourage spending.”

Is the price right?

While many travel retailers continue to downplay price in favour of store experience and promotional events, this latest CiR study reveals that price remains a key part of the mix.

“The data show that the perceived price benefit of duty free is driving alcohol footfall in particular,” says Stasiulevicuis. “Some 32% of our sample are looking to take advantage of a price saving which is +14% above the average across all categories which is a significant difference.”

Furthermore, the survey found that only 22% of alcohol buyers were driven to purchase by a successful promotional campaign. “This suggests that the category must realign how it supports growth. Taking advantage of good pricing is of paramount importance – nearly a third of buyers are converted to purchase through price savings so this message must be clearly signposted and relayed to the consumer,” says Stasiulevicuis.

Trading up is another area where retailers can generate incremental sales. Over 50% of travellers say that they buy a more expensive brand in duty free than in the domestic market. However, depending on the category, these consumers are cautious when switching from the familiar to the unknown. This opens up opportunities for decentralised staff interaction to explain products and pricing. Currently 64% of alcohol buyers do not interact with staff, rising to 70% for the over-40s.

Available now, The Alcohol Shopper Review 2018 offers much more detailed analysis of this core duty free and travel retail category and how it is viewed by travellers. For more information click here