Laurent Perrier International Operations Director Jean-Christian de la Chevalerie talks champagne, travel retail and that “other” Cannes event.

Jean-Christian de la ChevalerieHaving one foot in travel retail and the other in Laurent Perrier’s business elsewhere gives Jean-Christian de la Chevalerie an interesting professional vantage point. We asked him how things look from where he’s standing.

How long have you been working in travel retail and how did you start?

Jean-Christian de la Chevalerie: My involvement with travel retail dates back to 1996, when I first joined Laurent Perrier. Apart from a short break while I was based in Japan from 2008 to 2011, I’ve always had a hand in the company’s travel retail business. In addition, I look after the Asian domestic markets, international hotel chains and airlines, so it’s a broad remit. I was with Shiseido before working in champagne, although not on the duty free side.

What role does travel retail play for your company?

We’re a family-owned company but one with an international outlook and are currently the no.4 in Champagne volume- and value-wise. For us, travel retail is an excellent way to boost the image and visibility of our brand. We often use it to launch new products or packaging, and it enables us to reach consumers in emerging markets. Last year, sales of our prestige cuvées rose strongly at airports and we’ve a substantial presence at Paris Charles de Gaulle and London Heathrow. Travel retail’s also important for our development in Asia, with sales to travellers from China, Japan and South-East Asia going well.

In your experience, what are the key benefits of TFWA membership?

The networking opportunities are a major plus. Laurent Perrier hasn’t always been very active in this area, but I find the ability to meet people from different sectors is a big benefit. We’ve implemented several cross-marketing initiatives with other luxury brands – caviar, confectionery, fashion and fragrance houses in particular – so contacts with similarly-positioned companies in other product categories are important.

Outside work, what do you get passionate about?

Two things: music and film. I love unearthing hidden gems from around the world, and this often gives you something in common when meeting new people. In India with its love of Bollywood, for example, doors can open fast when you talk about cinema. And great films can be very moving. I remember seeing an Iranian film called “A Separation” at a small cinema in Epernay. It’s a simple story with authentic characters, but I was totally transported, all the more so as I came across it unexpectedly at a provincial cinema in Champagne.

This passion for film also gives Cannes a special resonance for me. I sometimes think TFWA World Exhibition & Conference is rather like the film festival – very international with people from all over the world. One moment you see your German agent on the Croisette and the next you bump into your Brazilian contact in the Palais. You’re constantly adapting, and I love that sort of ambience. 

Tickets to Wimbledon, the Comédie Française or a table at the best restaurant in town – which would you choose?

Ideally all three, but if I had to pick one, it would be the Comédie Francaise in Paris. I’ve been meaning to take my daughter and tickets are so hard to get these days.