Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Dubai Duty Free

A Global Leader

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Founded on 20 December 1983, Dubai Duty Free has recently celebrated its forty year anniversary and in that time it has grown into one of the largest single travel operators in the world. Here, we sit down with Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of the company to discuss its continuing success and how the business plans to maintain growth moving forward.

Dubai Duty Free is the company responsible for duty-free operations at Dubai International Airport and Al Maktoum International Airport and is run by Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, who was previously one of the ten-man team from Aer Rianta, the Irish Airport Authority which was behind the world’s first duty-free airport at Shannon Airport.

Today the business operates nearly 40,000sq m of retail spaces across the two airports. At Dubai International Airport, for example, they have shops in Concourses A, B, C, and D, Terminal 1 and 3 Arrivals as well as Terminal 2 Departures and Arrivals.

“The shops within these concourses were built according to specific categories, like perfume and cosmetics shops, food plus shops, liquor shops and so on. In recent years we have introduced more high-end luxury shops such as Chanel, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton, which are all run by ourselves and manned by our staff, although they are very distinctively branded as a boutique,” McLoughlin highlights.

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In terms of recent openings, in the last quarter of 2023, DDF completed the first phase of refurbishment at their liquor and tobacco shops in Concourse B of Dubai International Airport. Around 700sq m of retail space in both the East and West locations of Concourse B was refurbished with an upgraded look and another 700sq m of the liquor shop is due to be finished between this month and next. The upcoming liquor shops space will feature a modern design and the introduction of new concepts such as the liquor sampling area and self-checkout counters.

Following this, in the middle of 2024, the company will turn its attention to the refurbishment of the three Arrivals shops in Dubai International Airport, and this project is expected to be finished by the end of the year.

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“Concourse A, consisting of two perfumes and cosmetics shops, including fashion, is also set to be refurbished and this will begin in the second quarter of this year and will be finished in early to mid-2025 with three new boutiques of major brands. Meanwhile, the watches and electronics shops in Concourse B are also lined up for refurbishment next year,” McLoughlin explains.

As we move on to discuss the products on offer across their spaces and how they maintain their popularity in the market, Colm comments that passenger profiles and industry trends are vital in product selection and activation. He continues by saying that each and every profile has a different preference when it comes to brand and product, so they try their best to be relevant at any time. In addition, identifying future trends allows them to plan ahead and identifying possible threats allows them to mitigate any negative effects on the business if there are any.

The company also recognizes the importance of brand experience, partnering with brands to produce activations in the shop, be this in-store or in promo areas. They also have brand ambassadors and experts in place to provide passengers with the assistance and first-class service they feel they deserve.

The role of social media is a pivotal one for Dubai Duty Free and it plays a multifaceted role in the business. Its importance extends across various stages of the customer journey, making it a crucial component of the DDF marketing strategy. They use social platforms as powerful channels to increase brand awareness and visibility. Through consistent and engaging content, they are reaching a larger audience, raising brand awareness and building their brand image.

“On the sales side, we work with our suppliers to use social media as support channels to connect with our audience and showcase products, promotions, and sales offers. As a dynamic and interactive platform, social media helps us to increase visibility, exposure, and leads to potential sales opportunities.”

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Dubai Duty Free also plays its part in the role of sustainability in retail, ensuring it stays abreast of environmental issues and being aware of the potential environmental impact of its operation. They are constantly educating and fostering awareness among their team and community through sustainable initiatives and environmental practices.

To this end, they have adopted their own 4R’s principle, which is to reduce, reuse, reinvent, and recycle. This principle guides various procedures and practices within the organization, including recycling water for irrigation, transitioning to paperless operations through digitalization, and utilizing energy-efficient equipment and facilities, to name just a few.

All of the elements discussed above have led the brand to being the successful operation that it is today, but we asked Colm what he considered the key drivers behind the company’s success to be?

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“The growth and development of Dubai Duty Free is due to several factors, especially the tremendous support and encouragement that we have received from the Government of Dubai and in particular from H.H. Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman of Dubai Duty Free,” McLoughlin highlights.

“Another significant contribution towards our success is the dedication and effort of all our staff. I believe they are the best trained staff in the world and they deliver the best service in the industry, which is crucial to the success of our business, as are, of course, our customers, who are made up of travelers from all over the globe,” he continues.

To sum up our time with Colm, we ask him what he feels is the ethos of the business as it enters its fifth decade of operation?

“To provide customers with a first-class customer service, excellent value for money, a wide range of quality products, and a world-class shopping environment. As we look to the future, we want to be recognized as one of the best airport retailers in the world.”