The Tax-Free World Association has canceled its flagship World Exhibition that was due to take place in Cannes in September and October. The key event for the global duty-free retail sector has suffered less from the belief that the coronavirus will still be raging in five months’ time and more from the devastation its after-effects will continue to wreak on global travel and tourism.
The event is the key forum for major duty-free categories (beauty, fashion accessories, liquor, tobacco, gadgets, and confectionery/foods). It’s attended by the biggest names in luxury and mass-market products and is a key date for product launches. Its prestige can be seen from the line-up of keynote speakers it attracts to its opening conference, last year’s big-name being former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The cancellation comes as what was one of the retail sector’s most buoyant channels — travel retail — is reeling from the virtual cessation of air travel in much of the world.
In a statement, the Tax Free World Association said: “Given the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on its members, exhibitors and the duty free & travel retail industry as a whole, Tax Free World Association has today decided to cancel the 2020 edition.
“The TFWA Board and Management Committee took into account the continuing uncertainty surrounding the travel and health situation, as well as the worldwide fall in industry activity, in taking its decision."
The body had hoped to run the show with significant reductions in space rental fees, and changes to the format, but “the way in which the situation has developed, with the economic impact of the crisis becoming increasingly serious amid continuing uncertainty over restrictions on travel, has forced us to review our plans”.
As well as the major blow that the cancellation will cause to the industry, it’s also likely to be a blow for Cannes itself. The town is packed out during the event and show visitors are a major source of revenue for the luxury stories along the Croisette and the premium stores on the Rue d’Antibes.