Duty free operators in all-out war to attract LVMH chairman

Duty free operators in all-out war to attract LVMH chairman

Korean duty-free operators are waging a fierce battle to have on their side Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH Moet-Hennessy Louis Vuitton, amid heated competition to house luxury brand stores at their tax-free outlets, according to industry officials on Wednesday.

The chairman of the world’s largest luxury conglomerate, was on a surprise visit to Seoul to attend an international conference on luxury markets hosted by Conde Nast, publisher of fashion magazine Vogue.

Arnault’s visit to Seoul was seen as a rare chance for tax-free operators to turn the French chairman’s mind toward placing LVMH’s luxury brands at their stores.

The operation of LVMH’s luxury brands is crucial for Korean duty-free businesses as they are key to attracting high-end, big spenders at home and abroad.

The government approved the entry of three duty-free outlets in Seoul last year. But newcomers, including Shilla I’Park Duty Free Shop and Hanwha Galleria, launched operations without three major brands — Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Chanel.

The three brands are the signature brands sought by Chinese visitors who make up the biggest consumer group for Korean duty-free operators.

Before checking into Hotel Shilla on Monday, Arnault headed to the Louis Vuitton store at Shinsegae Department Store in Hoehyun-dong, central Seoul, raising the possibility of holding an exclusive meeting with Chung Yoo-kyung, who has been spearheading the opening of the retailer’s first duty-free shop in May.

The chairman’s schedule in Seoul had been kept in secret. Only a few of Blue Bell Group’s staff, LVMH’s local partner, were informed of Arnault’s schedule through text messages, reported Munwha Ilbo, a news outlet here.

According to the text messages, Arnault was to visit HDC Shilla Duty Free store, Lotte Department Store in Sogong-dong and Lotte Tower in Jamsil on Tuesday. But he did not show up at the HDC Shilla Duty store in Yongsan and Lotte Tower, the reports said.

However, he may have met Lee Boo-jin, president of Hotel Shilla, during his stay in the hotel, which is under the luxury hotel and duty-free unit of Samsung Group.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the French luxury conglomerate made a surprise visit to Galleria Department Store in Cheongdam-dong, southern Seoul, operated by Hanwha Group.

Hanwha Group confirmed the chairman’s visit. He had spent 40 minutes there accompanied by Hwang Yong-deuk, president of Hanwha Galleria and Kim Dong-seon, youngest son of the group chairman who has been supporting the group’s duty-free operation.

“We know that the chairman Arnault toured around the Galleria Department Store that operates a number of LVMH brands. We cannot confirm whether there was a talk on Galleria’s duty-free business,” said a Hanwha official.

Source:  http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20160420000903

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