Beam Suntory is preparing to bring a series of showcase Japanese whisky pop-ups to its top duty-free and travel-retail locations around the world. The move follows a test promotion that took place at Singapore’s Changi Airport during the month of February.
The House of Suntory—whose Yamazaki 55 has seen enormous interest via auctions at airports in the Netherlands and Turkey—trialed what it called a ‘world first’ pop-up at Changi’s terminal three, designed to immerse travelers in Japanese whisky and its famed craftsmanship.
Beam Suntory’s marketing director of global travel retail, Manuel González, told Forbes.com: “This was the first time we placed our House of Suntory portfolio into a more immersive experience—outside the standard (retail) units you can find at airports. The pop-up has allowed us to get closer to our consumers, educate them, and bring our products to life.”
The lines—all described as “illustrious liquids”—were varied, ranging from Hibiki Japanese Harmony Master’s Select and Limited Edition, to Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve and 12-Year-Old, plus Hakushu Distiller’s Reserve, Chita, AO, Roku, Haku and Umeshu.
A luxury Japanese whisky gallery
The pop-up was a partnership between House of Suntory and Korean retailer Lotte Duty Free which took on the liquor concession in Singapore Changi Airport at the worst possible time; in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, and initially had to debut at the airport through an online presence.
As well as all-important tastings, shoppers at the four-section, circular pop-up were indulged in educational and digital elements. Beam Suntory declined to state the starting prices available but said that “the gem of this pop-up was the opportunity to buy one of the few bottles of Yamazaki 55.” The recommended RSP is $65,000 for the oldest whiskey ever to have come from the House of Suntory, though it has been sold for high multiples of this at auction.
González told us: “Due to the success, and great brand-building component, we are already scoping new opportunities during this year to have this or a similar installation. This pop-up at Singapore Changi signifies our commitment to globalizing the House of Suntory portfolio.” Other travel retail locations lined up for the concept include Hainan (downtown duty-free), Dubai International and London Heathrow airports.
Demand for Japanese whiskies remains high worldwide, but especially in the U.S, China and France according to Euromonitor International, and House of Suntory is a driver of the category. Last month, Suntory Holdings said that, in the spirits business, it was aiming to grow sales value faster than volume by building its premium brands to be world leaders.
Ahead of the company’s centenary year of whiskey making in 2023, Suntory is strengthening its premium whisky portfolio. In addition, the company is stepping up promotional activities in retail environments and these latest travel retail showcases are likely part of that strategy.
In mid-February, parent Beam Suntory released its 2021 results showing sales up 11% year-over-year globally and also up 11% over the pre-pandemic year of 2019. The company’s 2021 results were led by Germany, Russia, Spain, emerging Asia, and the travel retail channel which all grew at double-digit rates. China and India—key markets for Beam Suntory’s future growth ambitions—also saw double-digit gains.
According to Airports Council International, passenger numbers worldwide are expected to be down by close to 3.7 billion this year, representing a 29% decrease on 2019. However, this is a much better performance than 2021 when 5.4 billion passengers were lost, meaning that numbers were 48% lower than 2019.