Novelty factor: Desire for niche beauty brands high among travellers seeking differentiation

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

The demand for smaller and niche beauty brands is rising in travel retail. [Dr. Barbara Sturm]
The demand for smaller and niche beauty brands is rising in travel retail. [Dr. Barbara Sturm]

Related tags Travel retail Skin care Makeup

The demand for smaller and niche beauty brands is rising in travel retail, where luxury and Gen Z consumers have a heightened appetite for discovery and novelty.

Frequent flyers and jetsetters are often seeking products that are not easily accessible elsewhere. Brands in the travel retail space often fulfil this desire by offering limited-edition items or bespoke experiences to create that sense of exclusivity that appeals to these travellers.

This craving for novelty is driving the need for more niche brands in the beauty and personal care aisles of duty-free stores.

These brands, which cater to a specific audience and may offer unique products, are capturing the attention of discerning travellers looking for something different.

“The consumers are looking for these smaller and more niche, differentiated brands because it’s all about the experience. Going through duty free is more of a discovery experience which is what all the travel retail operators are focusing on,”​ said Rolando Stefanos Zabban, general manager, UK and senior vice president, rest of world, Dr. Barbara Sturm.

The luxury skin care brand founded by the renowned aesthetics doctor Dr. Barbara Sturm expanded into the travel retail channel three years ago, beginning in Europe. Today, it is available at airports in Germany and Turkey.

“We could see that as the awareness of the recognition of the brand was building there was even more demand through the travel retail. Eventually, the space that we’re being given by the operators has increased to the point where we now have personalised spaces and counters as well,”​ Zabban said.

This is driving the brand to expand its footprint further into Asia Pacific’s travel arena.

“Even though exposure to travel retail has been more in Europe and the Middle East. We would like to obviously expand more in Asia as well. We're interested in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, and Thailand,” ​said Zabban.

The Insta generation

The demand for smaller brands is also evident among younger consumers, according to On The Mark, a UK firm that specialises in distributing smaller niche beauty brands in travel retail.

The brands it works with include Egyptian Magic, Morphe Cosmetics, Coco & Eve, and Sand & Sky.

“We’re in a situation where the Gen Z and Instagram generation are travelling. They follow brands like Sand & Sky and want to know more about pink clay – they demand it,” ​said Claire O’Donnell, account manager, On The Mark.

Lately, it has become more crucial for the company to collaborate closely with the brands to create desirable travel retail exclusives to attract travelling beauty consumers.

One of the results of its collaborations is the Morphe Runway Ready eyeshadow palette.

“It’s important to look at what drives the customers and to have a finger on the pulse on what the current trends are,” ​added Tatia Hudson, account manager, On The Mark.

For these smaller brands, the travel retail channel is an excellent avenue to gain wider exposure in markets they have yet to enter and hopefully acquire new fans, O’Donnel added.

“If [an airline carrier] carries 10 million passengers a year, you’ve got 10 million people potentially opening that magazine and seeing your brand, so it becomes good marketing for that brand too.”

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