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Opening Doors in Travel Retail:
Margaret Dabbs Interviewed

Peter Marshall (PM): Margaret, welcome to trunblocked.com Magaret Dabbs London first formulated treatment products for global retail sale in 2009. Can you briefly give us some background to the company.
Margaret Dabbs (MD): I started out in Podiatry 20 years ago as a foot specialist treating patients, but quickly developed treatment techniques which fused my medical knowledge with beauty, providing treatments which transformed the feet. At that time I saw there was a gap in the market for effective, results-driven products for feet which were both treatment remedies, luxurious and beautifying. So I therefore formulated results-driven products to treat feet and have extended my product range to include legs and hands.
PM: The question I am bound to ask is why you have decided that now is the right time to enter the Travel Retail market?
MD:  Well, we have built up a very strong and loyal customer base throughout the UK and this reach has now extended through Europe, the Middle East and Asia. We have opened up a number of international businesses where we continue to expand strongly with our branded foot clinics and nail spas, and the Margaret Dabbs London treatment protocols and treatment products are used professionally in luxury hotels and spas globally. Whilst there has always been interest in our products, it is apparent that timing is important, and we need to be able to support our growth with the right partner which we believe we have with GMAX Travel Retail.

Margaret Dabbs London has enjoyed exponential international growth 

PM: You launched into Travel Retail last year on Moodie Davitt’s Virtual Travel Retail Expo. It’s almost a year since then. What challenges have you faced and what progress have you made regarding listings in the business community of airports, airlines and cruise lines?
MD: The event was very interesting, and we had a number of great meetings and made new contacts. It has quickly become apparent that products for Feet and Legs are under-represented but very relevant in the travel retail market – and we therefore fill a large gap in the market. The exercise was important to build more awareness of the MDL brand in TR. We had a fantastic result, winning a six month listing with the QDF Factor, and we have since started to build other airline listings in the Middle East.
Challenges remain with regard to caution surrounding new listings following the pandemic, but with increased customers now travelling, operators are looking at innovative, desirable and sustainable brands which offer an additional revenue stream – of which MDL is at the forefront.

”Operators are looking at innovative, desirable and sustainable brands which offer an additional revenue stream – of which MDL is at the forefront”

PM: Which sector have you prioritised as having the greatest potential in Travel Retail, and why?
MD: Focusing on effective products for feet and legs within airports, inflight and cruise liners is our target. Our products receive incredible customer reviews, which promotes credibility and growth, and we have devised excellent illuminated display options to enhance the MDL range.
PM: So do you split your convenience range from the various treatment applications, for example, for the different market sectors? I can certainly see the dwell time on cruise lines being a natural fit. Which products are selling best in TR currently?
MD: Our award-winning concentrated formulations remain the same throughout both retail and spa professional products, driving outstanding treatment results. We have created some TR exclusives and sizes which can be showcased inflight as well as sitting within duty free stores. We carry a Feet and Hand as well as a Nail care set. Key to our offering is the Firming Leg Serum and the Foot Hygiene Cream – both best sellers with huge reputations which straddle the needs of both travel and vacation.
PM: As you said, your product range specialises in the care for feet, hands and legs within the beauty market. And yes, arguably this is an area largely neglected by the main duty free operators. How, then, do you think your brand can be best represented in airport travel retail – as a stand-alone unit, a dedicated space within the main duty free, a dedicated clinic in a spa, or even a pop-up?
MD: This is a great point. We have now purposely entered the TR market exactly for that reason. The sector is currently poorly represented and we believe that having Margaret Dabbs London, an award-winning specialist Harley Street brand entering the Travel Retail arena will bring incremental business and turnover and will drive a new client base. Feet and legs especially are so suited for travel – both for business as well as vacation. Long haul flights are especially pertinent for us. Feet and legs  become the central focus when flying and we have amazing products for both men and women to enhance that experience.
Travel surveys have revealed that, during flights or train journeys and travel, people have time available to focus on applying hand and nail products. With a focus on feet and leg swelling, the Foot Hygiene Cream and the Firming Leg Serum will be a must-have, and we are planning advertorial cover to talk about the benefits of using these products inflight. Additionally, we have designed stands for duty free retail use as well as being in discussion regarding pop-up displays to promote the MDL brand.
PM: Moving on, as a business might you be open to joint ventures?
MD: We are open to joint ventures as there is a big crossover with feet, hands and legs in the retail market – whether this be with footwear, jewellery or complementary beauty.
PM: How do you align your physical with your digital marketplaces? What is the current split between offline and online and how do you see both developing? As a leading brand, are you enticed by going metaverse?
MD: Online presence is key to building brand awareness and generating long term sales. It provides accessibility and visibility whilst inflight sales and duty free retail stores provide the touch point to convert those sales. There is never a better time to be accessible than when you are in mid-air or at an airport and the metaverse is the way forward.
PM: Finally, Margaret, if there were three things you wanted to say to the travel retail community, what would they be?
MD: I believe that customers are smart and that they have made a big shift across to bespoke, speciality brands with products which have  pedigree and a reputation of excellence. Wellness and health combined have become key to beauty sales. It’s clear that there is a huge gap in the travel retail market to launch foot care and leg products which really work – and there has never been a better time to embrace this trend. At the same time it offers a new revenue opportunity without cannibalising current sales.