Interview: DENIZEN Destination’s Estelle Baumann on creating ‘Unforgettable Travel Memories’

Highlighting a Sense of Place: For DENIZEN there is no limit to its expansion plan in travel retail

DENIZEN Destination is a new travel retail-focused enterprise arising out of the long-established, highly successful destination merchandise brand DENIZEN Bracelet.

DENIZEN produces collectible destination fine jewellery tailored to individual locations that conveys a strong Sense of Place. It deploys minimalist yet inventive cut-out or engraved map of a location (or local landmark or symbol) that allows customers to project their personal storied journey.

The Moodie Davitt Report caught up with Hong Kong-based DENIZEN Destination Managing Director Estelle Baumann to discover more. 

The Moodie Davitt Report: Estelle, you have been involved with DENIZEN Bracelet and DENIZEN World for seven years. What’s driven the creation of the new enterprise, DENIZEN Destination?

Estelle Baumann: DENIZEN has always been made and cut for travellers. Since its birth on the exclusive island of St Barts to its presence today across the globe, it was always meant exclusively for travel retail.

2024 is a milestone for DENIZEN, with the brand celebrating its 40th anniversary. Our focus on the ever-growing demand for localised merchandise triggered the creation of DENIZEN Destination. The new venture answers the needs of travel retailers and the desires of their consumers and represents an exciting channel for brand building and further business development, giving the Sense of Place concept the dimension it deserves within travel retail.

DENIZEN Destination: Going places (including Hainan, Hong Kong, Ireland and New Zealand, all featured here) in global travel retail

What’s your ambition for the company? 

Great collaborations are in the making for DENIZEN Destination, so watch this space. The sky is the limit. Well, actually, it’s not! We are limitless. We want to be everywhere. We’re already prominent in a sector of travel retail often underrated by the media – resort retail, may it be at the beach or on the ski slopes. And we are also active at cruise ship terminals and ports of call.

Our objective over the next three years is to become the number one destination merchandise in global travel retail, both in the jewellery and souvenir categories in the airport, cruise, and wider travel retail industry.

No competitor can match our unrivaled ability to curate high-quality destination merchandise to individual retailers and locations with an insanely short turnaround.

Our growth strategy is based on hiring talent, beginning with our new team members who are vastly experienced industry talents either focusing on geographical areas or specific channels such as ferries and cruise lines or airport shops.

Next stage in our strategy is a global annual communication campaign that started on 1 February targeting specific initial markets on social media for the public and in the specialised press for GTR retailers. Our brand will also build strong awareness by exhibiting and sponsoring major travel retail tradeshows, conferences, and awards.

I just want to pick up on that categorisation you mentioned. Is DENIZEN jewellery, destination merchandise, or a souvenir?

All of the above. That’s what makes it unique and unsurpassably profitable for our retailers. It’s a genuinely versatile product spanning across multiple product categories.

DENIZEN Destination targets any price points from entry level to fine jewellery

In a nutshell, DENIZEN is a collectible destination souvenir and a piece of jewellery, either fashion or fine, with a meaningful Sense of Place. Besides, DENIZEN being timeless, ageless and genderless, there is one for every customer, may they be local or visiting your location. 

Where currently is DENIZEN sold?

DENIZEN has always been sold exclusively by travel retailers. We currently have around 6,000+ retailers in the vicinity of 1,000 locations in 192 countries and territories around the world. We’re in most tourist destinations, in airports, onboard airlines, cruise and ferry lines, in luxury hotels and resorts, from fine island jewellers to upscale gift shops, on all seven continents. I insist on the 7th as the only retail shop in Antarctica carries its DENIZEN.

DENIZEN provides ‘Unforgettable Travel Memories’ on land, sea, and in the air – an ever-expanding footprint, from the largest nations to the most remote specks in exotic oceans.

Tell us about the DENIZEN range. What are your top sellers? And how would you advise a travel retail buyer to make a selection?

In general, in terms of metal line, the more suitable for travel retail is stainless steel followed by sterling silver and gold. The last two remain for exclusive destinations, such as St Barts or the Maldives.

Caribbean Love: Saint John, Saint Martin, Cooper Island (British Virgin Islands) and Turks and Caicos

The most popular collections are Voyage (the original one), Passport, and Cruiselink (both charm collections for airports and cruise lines).

Some destinations and symbols have become best sellers over the years. To name a few: the world map, Africa, Double Happiness for Asia, the hibiscus flower, the turtle… the list goes on.

However, what differentiates DENIZEN from other brands is the exclusivity of each collection for each destination. So, they will inevitably become best sellers on location, never to be sold elsewhere, henceforth zero competition to curb margins.

Being fortunate to have a concept of custom-made jewellery with a unique Sense of Place for each destination in the world – as highlighted in this month’s editorial of The Moodie Davitt Report – DENIZEN is unrivalled with a lead of 40 years under our belt and hard to catch up with in this niche market.

The Vail (Colorado) ski resort charm bracelet typifies the curated approach DENIZEN brings to its retail partners

In terms of making a selection, we take care of the thinking for our retailers. DENIZEN is a worldwide concept optimally designed and fine-tuned for a specific destination with a pre-set number of variations on their (also custom-made) display. We’ve been doing this for four decades with long-standing repeat customers. After an initial discussion, we’ll propose a specific assortment and display solution tailored to your needs in line with our brand guidelines.

Travel retailers are increasingly looking for differentiation from their online and offline competitors. Can DENIZEN Destination create bespoke items for a location or even an event?

Absolutely. First of all, we are not in and do not target downtown or mall shops. Those channels are for all-purpose brands.

On the other hand, almost anything is possible with our destination concept. Our in-house designers can quickly create design options integrating branding if needs be, and the cost and manufacturing quality will be the same as the rest of our products.

DENIZEN offers its own take on what the world needs right now

No competitor can match our unrivaled ability to curate high-quality destination merchandise to individual retailers and locations with an insanely short turnaround. And our retailers don’t even compete since they all have the opportunity to carry exclusive products tailored for their customers, designed for their location and nowhere else.

Let’s say I’m a buyer and I’ve ordered a DENIZEN collection specifically tailored to my location? What’s the timeline?

Based on our initial discussion (store volume, seasonality, customer demographics, budget…), we propose a relevant destination design and range. Then we fine tune the volumes, styles, packaging and display solutions. Sixty days later, your order, including merchandising, is packed and shipped to your designated destination. No order is too large to require a longer lead time.

Your brand is intrinsically about the concept of Sense of Place. The memory of a destination. We know that is an important concept to travelling consumers. How well do you think it is reflected in the travel retail world today?

Indeed, DENIZEN echoes travellers’ experiences with a localised offering. Now that travel is back in people’s lives after an excruciating wait, they are even more open to discover something new, seeking positive emotions and long-lasting memories. DENIZEN answers that need for quality mementos of special moments with a meaningful Sense of Place associated with joy.

This is in my view where the future of travel retail lies: seamlessly integrating purchase within the experience of travelling through destination merchandise, across all categories.

The appeal is real but still largely untapped, in my opinion. Localisation is often done through packaging only but travelling customers want more out of their travels. They are looking for special products that matter to them.

DENIZEN triggers incomparable emotional spending that often translates in multiple purchases with the intent to share the experience with travel companions or loved ones back home. We answer the needs of the ‘experience traveller’ looking for brands being part of their journey, providing exclusivity at each stop, and that is particularly true onboard cruise ships where DENIZEN’s offering is renewed at each port of call, a feat no other brand can match.

Our customers discover and connect with our brand when they actually travel, as mentioned previously, not in downtown shops or through ecommerce, with the exception of our own website of course.

DENIZEN Destination can tailor its offer to any location or landmark

We are part of their journey from their point of departure to their destination, always with exclusive collections that renew their interest and integrate with their experience. With DENIZEN Destination, travellers can bring back ‘Unforgettable Travel Memories as our motto says along their journey: on land (airport stores, ports of call, train stations, border shops, hotel & resort boutiques), in the air (inflight magazines), or at sea (onboard cruise ships or ferries, quayside or seashops).

Our jewellery is akin to talismans crystallising the excitement of travelling and discovering the world, the nostalgia of the mother land, or national pride. And it is all in the name: DENIZEN is exclusive to each destination and takes you back to that destination once you return home.

DENIZEN bracelets are customised for individual locations, in this case Club Med Cancún, Mexico

You’ve entered into a wide-ranging communications partnership with The Moodie Davitt Report, which we’re obviously excited about. And as part of that DENIZEN Destination is sponsoring our inaugural Sense of Place Awards and related coverage on our website. Tell us about the rationale behind that investment.

We want to be seen. We want to be heard more. Our products tell stories. We bring a point of difference to the channel, and it is important that retailers see how serious we are about it and about their bottom line that dictates their selections.

We know they read The Moodie Davitt Report. You are not the number one travel retail media by far without reason and you are pioneers in championing the Sense of Place concept.

We created the product; you identified the potential of the concept. The synergy was there from the start. It was only a matter of time until we formed in the most natural way a communication alliance.

We also like your tagline ‘The website that never sleeps’! That suggests a passion for the business and an entrepreneurial, never-say-die spirit like our own, ready to serve 24 times zones around the globe.

And it’s true by the way, we don’t sleep! Any last thoughts?

We don’t sleep much either, we have a whole world to cover, and every place deserves its own DENIZEN. Frankly, the team has become jetlag-immune and is living out of a suitcase, always on the road. Travel shapes youth and keeps us young. ✈

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