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Neil Ebbutt says goodbye to Rituals after 20 years; Melvin Broekaart named Global Travel Retail Director

Neil Ebbutt departs Rituals after a stellar 20 years in the company

Wellbeing company Rituals has announced that Neil Ebbutt is departing Rituals after 20 years of outstanding service and that Melvin Broekaart has been appointed as Global Travel Retail Director.

Ebbutt, who has been a tremendous champion for the travel retail cause, joined Rituals Cosmetics in 2001 as a Founding Partner and oversaw the launch of the brand’s travel retail business in 2012. Over the years, Ebbutt has played a lead role in driving Rituals to a position of leadership within the wellbeing category in the channel.

Under Ebbutt’s leadership, the brand’s travel retail network has expanded to include 104 countries, over 600 shop-in-shops and 15 standalone stores. He has also secured numerous global hotel and airline agreements.

Broekaart, who has previously held leadership roles at Heineken, Philips and Aircommerce Group, will continue to build Rituals’ leadership position in the wellbeing category by exploring new opportunities in the travel retail and tourism-related sectors.

He will also drive Rituals’ digital strategy in Asia and Europe and deliver the brand’s vision of connecting with travellers across every point of their journey.

Both Ebbutt and Broekaart will be present on the Rituals stand at the TFWA World Exhibition Conference in Cannes next month (Riviera Village RC4) as part of a smooth transition.

While Rituals may be saying goodbye to the much-respected Ebbutt, Broekaart, who enjoys a well-deserved reputation as an innovator, promises to build on Ebbutt’s successes, including a strong recovery in a travel retail channel hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019 at The Trinity Forum in Doha, Qatar, he was named winner of the inaugural Trinity Challenge for his compelling artificial intelligence tool designed to increase penetration “by seducing more passengers to make use of the already existing, amazing commercial venues present” at the airport.

Innovative thinker: Melvin Broekaart accepts The Trinity Challenge first prize in Doha

Neil Ebbutt played a pivotal role in growing Rituals’ leadership in travel retail’s wellbeing category

Neil Ebbutt reflects on a unique travel retail journey

In this Q&A, Ebbutt looks back on the biggest milestones of his 20-year career at Rituals and the brand’s pioneering approach to travel retail. Meanwhile, Broekaart outlines his vision for the future, highlights the biggest opportunities in his short to mid-term recovery plan and underscores the role of wellbeing in driving travel retail’s future sucess.

What have been the standout moments or milestones throughout your time building the Rituals business in travel retail?

We formally launched the travel retail ‘Line of Business’ in 2012. Prior to that we had a few bits of business (we have since labelled as part of our travel retail operations) such as the London Heathrow Airport T4 store and onboard KLM. From that moment on, travel retail has been part of the Rituals strategy to build a global brand with a defined omnichannel strategy via retail, wholesale, ecommerce and travel retail.

The buy-in of all internal stakeholders to align our vision that travel retail needed to be a centrally organised business unit, operated from Amsterdam, was also key to its success and an important milestone. Managing international customers with a global footprint with one vision and the ability to take fast decisions which benefit our partners and Rituals alike is testimony to this strategy. I am proud to say that in the space of nine years we have managed to build up a presence in 104 countries worldwide. That figure would have been even higher had our momentum not been halted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the same breath as facts and figures I always need to mention the travel retail team – they say leaders recruit great leaders. The travel retail team is a great example of this ethos. The team has grown up so much over the years and brought the brand so far. We have bright young people with boundless energy and a great work ethic and more importantly a great team spirit to deliver results together.

Describe your vision for Rituals in travel retail when you first launched. Did you imagine your footprint would reach the scale it has today?

The vision was to build a global travel retail brand through many different sales channels, but honestly that vision has changed many times along the way as we began to grasp the complexity of the world of travel retail. It genuinely took me two to three years to feel I was in control and truly understanding the business.

I’m still amazed by the scale we’ve reached – present in 104 different countries with over 600 shop-in-shops, 15 standalone stores, 3,000 four and five star hotels and seven leading airlines. That’s all managed by a relatively small team mainly based in Amsterdam but also with satellite resource based in Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong and London and through 25 distribution partners across the globe extending our reach and growing local connections.

What do you think the key factors in that success story have been?

Differentiation has been key. We have a great brand which is creating and defining new categories in travel retail such as home care — whether that’s candles, fragrance sticks and even car fragrances. We’ve also created a very powerful gifting assortment which has performed incredibly well in travel retail.

Rituals’ has a presence in 104 different countries, over 600 shop-in-shops, 15 standalone stores, 3,000 four and five star hotels and onboard seven leading airlines

What are you most proud of?

Neil Ebbutt says goodbye to Rituals after 20 years; Melvin Broekaart named Global Travel Retail Director

I believe at Rituals we have a genuine desire to create & innovate not just born out of a need. Initially I was told that our price point was too low but on reflection the Rituals philosophy of providing the world of luxury at an everyday affordable price, proved to add value instead of devaluing the category.

I’m also immensely proud of the leadership position we’ve taken in the wellbeing category in travel retail. The rise of wellbeing and self-care — particularly during the COVID pandemic — has really seen our brand become very much aligned with a global movement. I also think that the reaction we get from retailers highlights how far we have come. I won’t perhaps go as far as ‘from Zero to Hero’ – but we are certainly pushing against a lot more open doors today than we were even as recently as five years ago!

We have been able to sign some truly global agreements with household names such as Novotel (600+ hotels worldwide), Kempinsky and Melia hotels & Luxury Resorts, Heinemann, DFS, Lagardère and Dufry. We’re onboard MSC, Starboard and Carnival luxury cruise liners and KLM, Qatar Airlines and Hainan Airlines with our luxury amenity and washroom product range. We’re really delivering on our vision of connecting with the traveller on every leg of their journey.

And the biggest challenge you’ve managed to overcome in the channel?

You tend to forget most of the challenges and struggles but a few simple things spring to mind. Within the Rituals organisation itself we have made a lot of requests of various internal teams for bespoke product innovations and instore materials for what still is a relatively small (revenue-wise) part of the total Rituals business.

I hardly dare mention it, but the COVID-19 pandemic has been a big challenge for the Rituals TR team. Sometimes it has been hard not to despair, but the resilience, fighting spirit and humour of our team has been magnificent.

The next challenge is to re-build travel retail’s stake back to circa 10% share of the business from the 2% it currently is. This is in line with our global vision to build a brand comprising retail 50%, wholesale 20%, ecommerce 10% and travel retail 10%.

Melvin Broekaart takes the helm as Rituals Global Travel Retail Director

Melvin Broekaart outlines his vision for the future

What excites you most about the opportunity for Rituals in travel retail?

As the fastest-growing European beauty brand, there is an enormous opportunity for Rituals to recover faster than the overall travel retail recovery rate. The affordable luxury category, in which Rituals plays a leading role, has been experiencing robust growth in travel retail and will continue to contribute strongly to the industry’s overall recovery.

I’m eager to explore new opportunities in the wider travel ecosystem, outside of the traditional duty free business, such as airport lounges, train stations and car rental.

I’m also looking forward to accelerating the brand’s digital strategy in Asia — through livestreaming, KOL partnerships etc. — and in Europe to setting up online stores with partners and home delivery options.

All in all, it is an incredible opportunity to join this iconic wellbeing brand Rituals at this moment in time.

Broekaart aims to promote Rituals’ ‘The Art of Soulful Living’ ethos on a global stage

In one sentence, summarise your five-year vision for Rituals in travel retail.

As one of travel retail’s fastest-growing beauty brands, Rituals will leverage its renowned in-store experience to support the brand’s strong growth ambitions, both geographically as well as digitally – enabling millions of passengers to feel good, both physically as well as mentally.

Which markets do you see the most opportunity in over coming years?

Firstly, China. The sheer size of the market, combined with the very positive sentiment towards duty free shopping and developments surrounding the digital duty free landscape in Hainan and beyond, will strongly support our growth ambitions.

Secondly, Europe. The absence of Chinese shoppers here will create a much stronger focus on the affordable luxury category, which Rituals is driving thanks to our attractively priced, sustainable luxurious gifting & self-indulgence assortments.

Asia has been a big focus for the brand in recent years; how do you see this vast and diverse region bouncing back from COVID and developing for you?

Certain places in Asia, particularly Hainan, have not been as hard hit by COVID so our performance there has been consistently strong which compensates somewhat for slower sales in other regions. The burgeoning Hainan market makes me look forward greatly to our upcoming Q4 store openings on the island.

As for the rest of Asia, once the remaining travel and quarantine restrictions are lifted, I am confident that travel in the region will pick up quickly again.

How do you see the wellbeing category developing in travel retail and what role can it play in recovery?

Given the marked increased consumer focus on health and wellbeing, the wellbeing category has a huge role to play in driving recovery in travel retail.

In the upcoming years we will build on the concept of wellbeing and introduce ‘The Art of Soulful Living’ — a new take on a holistic approach to good living, where we touch on all the important pillars: from physical and mental to spiritual. Rituals is much more than a cosmetics brand; we are here to make the customer feel good, physically and mentally. We are committed to supporting customers in finding time to slow down and taking a moment for themselves, even more so as we return to normal and our lives become busier again.

Broekaart believes that Rituals can recover faster than the industry and that the wellbeing category can help drive wider recovery for the channel

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