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Taipei view

I’ve arrived in Taipei for The Trinity Forum 2014, our annual airport commercial revenues conference co-organised with ACI and ACI Asia-Pacific, and what a welcome it was.

Taipei Trinity trolley

Ever Rich Duty Free, our Platinum Partner, and Taoyuan Airport our hosts, have arranged a special Trinity makeover for their VIP welcoming buggies. It’s such a nice touch and believe me it’s just the beginning. Taiwanese hospitality is legendary and I can promise Trinity delegates they’re in for a treat – well, several actually.

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I was whisked by the ultra-efficient and charming Ever Rich team to the Huan Yu VIP Terminal. The facility offers the airport’s first-ever speedy customs service, quick-fire immigration and the use of a VIP room and refreshments while formalities are being processed and one’s luggage claimed.

Taipei VIP

Taipei Hun Yu

I – and many of the delegates also – am arriving in on a high from the wonderful Sunrise Duty Free 15th anniversary celebrations in Shanghai yesterday.

Our hosts  Madame Zhang Feng Yi and Fred Kiang and the whole Sunrise team outdid themselves in the magnificence of the evening, which included a 190 metre walk down the red carpet of the Avenue of Stars by the guests, through the most exquisite stage and music set designed and directed by famous Chinese film director Zhang Yimou (Red Sorghum, Ju Dou, Raise the Red Lantern, The Story of Qui Ju, Shanghai Triad, Hero, House of Flying Daggers), who also directed the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games. The evening was also notable for a star appearance by acclaimed French film actress Sophie Marceau.

Sunrise also unveiled, in spectacular style, an e-commerce initiative that will, I think, transform Chinese, and perhaps global, duty free. But I’ve agreed with Sunrise to hold my report until our Cannes print issue next month so you’ll have to wait for more details. I can promise you it will make important reading.

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[Fred Kiang, Madame Zhang Feng Yi and Zhang Yimou]

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[The ice men cometh: Javier Simon and Olivier Bottrie of The Estée Lauder Companies in front of a giant Sunrise Duty Free ice carving]

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[Martin Moodie, Alex and Olivier Bottrie]

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[Martin Moodie and Jacqlyne Li of Bally stop for a photo shot with a hostess on the Zhang Yimou-directed red carpet experience]

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[Signing a message of goodwill to Sunrise on the magnificently designed outdoor set]

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[Advance Australia fair: Craig Sargeant (left) and Doug Bagley, the two Australian heads of Mars and Diageo's travel retail divisions]

Afterwards the party continued in relaxed style with a few late-night drinks. I had the chance to smoke a great cigar with Fred Kiang (below) while sipping on Marc Gentzbourger’s equally fine Chabot 1945. It was great to be able to sit and chat with this true gentlemen as he related tales of the very early days of Sunrise, including opening day when only two cartons of cigarettes were sold. Sunrise has come a long, long way since.

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By the time I hit my pillow it was the wee small hours and another type of sunrise was beckoning. After a few hours sleep I did an early morning store-check at Shanghai Pudong Airport (business was particularly robust in beauty and there were some outstanding wines on show, nicely presented) before the short flight to Taipei.

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Sunrise store shot

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It’s time now though to ban all thoughts of socialising and work through the evening on preparation for this week’s big event, which kicks-off with an opening cocktail here at the Grand Hyatt. The hotel, incidentally, celebrated its 24th birthday this afternoon in spectacular style just as I was checking in.

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Staff from all departments performed an exuberant flash dance, drawing what seemed like just about every guest out on to the balconies above, before Hotel Manager Kai Speth and members of his team cut a giant cake. Speth then talked about the astonishing transformation of the local district over the past 24 years amid a booming economy and the emergence of a world-class tourist industry, in which travel retail has played a major role.

Expect Trinity to put a splendid icing on the cake.

Taipei dance crowd

Taipei cake

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rsz_sunrise

This Blog begins at the Emirates Lounge at Heathrow Airport Terminal 3, waiting to fly to Shanghai, via Dubai. I suspect it may not end here…

I’m heading to Shanghai for the 15th anniversary of Sunrise Duty Free, where I’m privileged to be the sole international travel retail media representative. I’ve tracked Sunrise closely since its inception; watched its impressive development; and grown to know, like and deeply respect its senior figures, Madame Zhang Feng Yi and Fred Kiang, so I’m excited and honoured to be invited.

At what promises to be a glittering occasion, Sunrise will also unveil a major new e-commerce retail initiative – more of that following Monday’s celebrations.

From Shanghai it’s straight on to Taipei and The Trinity Forum 2014, The Moodie Report’s biggest moment of the year. I founded The Trinity Forum in 2003 and am very proud of its development since. It has its perennial critics who somehow think it should solve all the industry’s ills and blame it when it doesn’t but no-one can dispute the event’s influence in raising the issues that matter and its importance as a showcase for championing excellence.

A quick word about the Heathrow airport experience to date. Check-in and security were easy, the former especially so since my (and the world’s best) travel agent Phil Burdekin of Flight Centre got me upgraded to First Class on Emirates (a quick disclaimer: for the first eight years of The Moodie Report’s existence I travelled economy wherever I went, no matter how long the flight, a necessary economy in the literal sense to build a new business. Since my illness in 2010 I’ve allowed myself the luxury of business class on long haul and given my ever-deepening carbon footprint that’s probably a good thing).

Once through security (quick, polite, efficient) I took a wander through the T3 World Duty Free store (the liquor area I am afraid is cluttered: the gondolas way too high, the sightlines miserable; The Wine Collection area has some lovely wines but the merchandising could be a lot more exciting; beauty on the other hand is generally excellent, at least in cosmetics), before visiting a few of my favourite specialist outlets, Jo Malone, Thomas Pink, Caviar House & Prunier and Paul Smith.

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[It will cost you £1,000 but look what you get: This special presentation of Penfolds 2010 Bin 170 Kalimna Shiraz, celebrating 170 years of winemaking, is clad in an exquisite Linley box. With a 98-point Robert Parker rating, the wine's not bad either.]

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I admit to being hooked by Paul Smith – both its wares and its stores. Its Heathrow T5 shop is in my global top ten (more of that in a forthcoming Blog) and the T3 variant is pretty damn good too.

As is my want, I bought a couple of pairs of Paul Smith socks (I adore them and on my more eccentric days like to wear non-matching ones). Alas, something about my transaction (what is it about me and technology?) caused the system to freeze just as I had popped the socks into my ‘Mobile Moodie’ Tumi wheelie and was about to exit the shop.

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[Mix & match Paul Smith style]

“Sorry about this,” said the sales assistant Zubair. For the next ten minutes or so (with me necessarily checking my watch the whole time, for in what won’t rank as a surprise to regular readers, I was running just a tad late), he and his senior colleague Mo did their best to kick-start a system that seemed to have thrown the mother of all tantrums. In contrast, Zubair and Mo stayed calm, friendly, assuring. They could have lost the customer but their collective warmth (and my love for Paul Smith socks) ensured they didn’t. Nice job guys. And what a store.

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[Powerful airport advertising at Heathrow Terminal 3]

After a few shop and restaurant checks, that didn’t leave much time in the Emirates Lounge. A quick glass of ice-cold Veuve Clicquot for the road (ok and half a glass of Chassagne Montrachet just to ensure the road was there) and it was time to hit the aviation highway Emirates-style on the big bird itself, the A-380.

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I’d love to tell you about the inflight experience; about the wonderful duty free offer; about the professionalism and grace of the crew. And I would if I hadn’t fallen asleep moments after take-off and slept all the way into Dubai. I’m flying back with Emirates (admittedly not First Class) so my review will have to wait till then.

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Now I’m writing from the Emirates Lounge at Dubai International Terminal 3. It’s a vast, sublimely peaceful facility that immediately put some zest back into this tired old frame.

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[The power of airport advertising captured brilliantly at Dubai International]

First though I had a couple of tasks to do. Number one was to seek a refund for a couple of (rather expensive) gift items bought last November that weren’t to the recipient’s taste.

No problem at all for the wonderful Customer Service team at Dubai Duty Free. Young Rebecca from the Philippines (pictured below) took me to the gold department where I bought the items, chatting engagingly along the way about how much she enjoyed working for Dubai Duty Free.

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She hails from a town one hour outside Manila, travelling back home for four weeks every year. Like most of the Dubai Duty Free team she has left her family behind only to find a new one here and the genuine way Rebecca and others always talk about “Mr Colm” [McLoughlin] and “Mr George” [Horan] never fails to affect me. Every single member of the Dubai Duty Free team has an interesting life story to tell and I always try to seek it out.

Once there at the Gold shop, supervisor Austin and his team made what might have been an irksome process swift and painless. With my credit card nicely topped up, I chatted to long-time Duty Manager Rajesh Advani (below) about life at Dubai Duty Free.

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When I told him how helpful Rebecca had been, he emphasised just how much effort Dubai Duty Free puts into staff training and customer service. As each shift ends a daily debrief is held. “What did we do wrong or not as well as we might have,” is a question that is always asked. Consistency is everything, said Rajesh, who hails from Mumbai but who has worked for Dubai Duty Free for 21 years. Even the slightest lapse in standards is treated like a matter of state, underlining one of the key reasons in Dubai Duty Free’s rise to become the biggest single airport retailer on the planet.

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I also stopped in at one of the two Le Clos outlets housed within the outstanding Emirates First & Business Lounge (above). These are showcases for the bigger, brilliant wine & spirits boutiques housed in the main airport concourses but they’re still outstanding. What an outstanding line-up of great (and I use the word deliberately) wines, from the First Growths of Bordeaux to the New World magnificence of Penfolds Grange Hermitage and the ever-refreshing zest of Cloudy Bay from Richie McCaw-land, sorry New Zealand. I chatted for a few minutes to Suredj (pictured), the young man in charge of the shop, and he spoke of a steady sales flow each day of ultra-premium wines to First and Business Class passengers who were only interested in such labels and who did not want to visit the duty free shop.

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But how many retailers around the world would be prepared to make such an investment? In space, in staff and most of all in stock. The day before my flight I had lunch in London with Andrew Day, CEO of MMI/Emirates Leisure Retail, the Dubai government owned retail-to-food & beverage operator which runs Le Clos. Andrew and I bemoaned the many temptations to ‘dumb down’ the airport consumer offer because of the many disincentives to invest in the channel. The magnificence of Le Clos (is there a better fine wine offer in travel retail?) shows the power of belief backed up by investment,. How many travel retailers bemoan the challenge of their target passengers heading straight for the lounge but don’t (or can’t for financial reasons) do anything about it?

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Dubai Duty Free was, as always, bursting with activity, a retail extravaganza that shoppers never seem to tire of. Its beauty offer (below) has improved dramatically in recent years and the results simply speak for themselves.

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[A lovely generic promotion at Dubai Duty Free Terminal 3]

H DUBAI LAUDER[Another example of Lauder using the airport advertising platform cleverly, this time underneath one of the main FID screens] 

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As I write now, I’m onboard Emirates 304 two hours out of Shanghai, 35,000 feet above the vast hinterland of China, listening to the eternal greatness that is Blonde on Blonde by Bob Dylan (the First Growth of singer songwriters).  The ICE (information, communication, entertainment) system on Emirates is just the bee’s knees as we used to say in New Zealand, although I seriously doubt that bees have knees (Dylan’s song Visions of Johanna on Blonde on Blonde may offer a clue) and if they do they must be terribly small.

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[Browsing for duty free made easy onboard Emirates]

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But I digress. The Emirates experience really is the total package. I always think companies (mine included) are only as good as their weakest link. That, depending on the organisation, can be a rude receptionist, an uncaring waiter or stewardess, a tyrannical CEO or a sloppy reporter. But from the moment I was picked up outside my home by the Emirates driver and taken to Heathrow I have been treated royally. I am just one of millions of passengers the airline handles each year, yet each and every member of staff (from check-in to lounge to flight crew) has treated me as if I am their only guest.  I can only hope that Emirates one day takes over American Airlines (the subject of one of my most popular Blogs).

As I fly over Chongqing, it’s time to stop Blogging and to start doing some of the vast amount of preparatory work for Trinity that still awaits. I’ve received most of the speakers’ presentations. I have, of course, not started mine. The cold steel of the guillotine blade is not yet close enough but I am starting to sense its deadly chill.

First though, I have other business. It’s approaching 11pm in China but tomorrow it will be, literally, a case of Sunrise in Shanghai.

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Zurich sprung 2

Zurich sprungli

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One of the most experienced and respected executives in the travel retail sector was comparing notes with me the other day on airports that really stood out in terms of their commercial offer.

“Have you been to Zürich Airport lately?” he asked me, “Don’t you think it’s outstanding?”

I had and I do. I’ve been through Zürich twice in fact in the past few weeks (one the subject of an earlier Blog and maybe the most touching feedback I have ever received, scroll to the bottom) and on both occasions been deeply impressed by the scale, diversity and sheer excellence of the commercial offer.

Probably the question I am asked more often than any other (especially by newspaper journalists researching articles on duty free) is ‘What’s your favourite airport?’

I think in retail (both duty free and specialist) terms, Zürich has to be top three; while in food & beverage it touches one great height – Marché (see below, and excuse the image overload but it’s necessary to make the point about the outlet’s sheer brilliance), supported by a consistently good range of restaurants, bars and eateries.

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I love the very Swiss clean lines of the airport, its brightness, efficiency and vibrancy. I love the way the concourse is used to good effect with consistently brilliant promotions. The Nuance Group duty free stores (Arrivals and Departures) are among the world’s best and there are some superb stand-alone stores.

I mentioned the quality of the promotions. During this week’s visit the one that stood out was from Italian winemaker Masi, syonymous with its great Amarone as well as other fine wines from the Valpolicella region.

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The promotion, inside the Nuance Departures store, is in association with another great Italian name, Fiat, and features a gorgeous little Fiat 500 car in-store – surely a travel retail first. How many bottles of wine can you fit into a Fiat 500 (now wouldn’t that have been a great competition?)? Judging by this photo plenty.

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Passengers who purchase a bottle of Masi wine are offered a voucher for a glass of Amarone at the Masi Wine Bar in downtown Zürich. The company is also offering free wine delivery, supported by Fiat, with every CHF300 (US$320) purchase of Masi wines.

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The 120-seat Masi restaurant features a complete list of Masi wines, including Valpolicella Classico Bonacosta, Argentinian Passo Doble and Classico Mazzano Amarone from the Boscaini Private Cellar. [Look out for a major interview with President and Managing Director Sandro Boscaini, known as 'Mr Amarone', online and in an upcoming Print Edition of The Moodie Report.]

More on this story soon, but for now I’ll let every picture tell a story.

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Sometimes you just have to forget the superlatives and simply say ‘Wow’. In fact, I probably heard the expression more on a single day, 1 September, than I have in the past decade, as brand executives reacted to the stunning new CDF Mall at Haitang Bay on Hainan Island, China.

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As the sole industry media representative at the March 2013 China Duty Free Group (CDF) Vendors’ Conference, when the project was outlined in detail and the construction site toured, and September 2014’s Grand Opening, I am in a unique position to commentate on what by any standards ranks as one of the great moments in travel retail history.

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On the former occasion we heard CDFG Vice President Charles Chen (pictured below with me at this week’s opening) expound the vision behind the shopping complex with conviction and clarity. But the project was of such a scale and the timeline to a 2015 opening so tight that one wondered, especially after a visit to what amounted to little more than a vast construction site (above), how it all could be done.

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Brands – including the biggest, most demanding names in the business – had to be convinced, space agreed, terms signed, stores built. Could CDF really pull it off?

The answer, shouted from the roof-tops of this architectural wonder at the Grand Opening, was an emphatic, defiant, resounding ‘Yes’. Somehow, against what CDF executives and brand representatives told me were at times overwhelming odds, this vast, two-building, multi-story retail-to-food & beverage extravaganza got over the line.

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The story of how it got there could fill a book the size of War & Peace. I’ve known men such as Charles Chen and Luke Chang (Director Beauty & Fashion Department, pictured below) for many years. I got to know their amazing work ethic and passion for the business very well through the China Travel Retail Summit of 2002 (in The Moodie Report’s first year), an event I co-organised with CDF and King Power Group.

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The conference component was held in the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square, the Gala Dinner at the Great Wall. Never was there such an event; never did I see such hard work behind the scenes to overcome the odds (we weren’t even allowed into the revered Hall with all our audio-visual set-up until just one hour before the conference opening; and remember CDF was a much smaller, more fledgling organisation back then); never did I see more pride in an organisation determined to show that it could match the best.

Twelve years on, all those qualities and more shone like a giant Chinese lantern in the night as CDF strove to be ready for opening. Just days before, the task had seemed nigh impossible, with many of the boutiques hardly in place let alone completed (there are barely any generic offers; other than categories such as sunglasses, the lion’s share of brands are stand-alone propositions).

Together with the local team, a large CDF contingent seconded from head office in Beijing worked around the clock (and I don’t use the term lightly) on several occasions to ensure that the deadline would be hit.

CDF Chairman Peng Hui (pictured below after our interview on Monday) told me: “As long as we had set the opening target, we had to make it.” No ifs, buts or maybes. But can you imagine the huge pressures that placed on the team as they tried to create not only the world’s biggest duty free complex but also one of its very best?

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“The spirit of our company, from the top management to more junior levels, is that we are willing to take on challenges,” Peng continued. “If I had to sum up that spirit it would be in the words ‘Not afraid of difficulties’.”

What an elegant way to express the spirit of a company that has transformed itself beyond recognition over the past decade. A company that used to be a mix of wholesale business and some acceptable but never inspiring retail has challenged itself to be great; by setting itself a goal so high, so beyond anything it – or the industry – had done in terms of scale (and great quality) that only by reaching that goal could it ultimately define what it stood for. A company that made an industry utter a collective ‘Wow’.

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If US President Barak Obama or German leader Angela Merkel happen to be travelling through Vladivostok Airport this year, they better not expect to stock up on duty free.

An in-store sign banning Obama and Merkel, along with the UK, Canadian, French, Australian and Japanese leaders David Cameron, Stephen Harper, Francois Hollande, Tony Abbott andShinzo Abe was this week posted on Instagram by writer Michael Idov and subsequently picked up by newswire services. Six leading Ukrainian politicians, including President Piotr Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk are included in the ban.

bab blogSource: Michael Idov; Telegraph Travel

The ban is a response to tighter economic sanctions imposed on Russia as a result of the crisis in Ukraine.

Could this create an intriguing precedent for the duty free industry as it takes its lobbying powers to a new, radical level? How about all intra-European Union airports banning former European Commissioner (and later Italian Prime Minister) Mario Monti – the man who killed off intra-EU duty free – from its stores, duty paid or otherwise?

Then again, wasn’t it Denmark which cast the death knelll vote in 1999? That’s it then – a blanket global ban on all Danes entering duty free shops to, say, 2299. That’ll give them the best part of three centuries to rue the miserable error of their ways (though as the industry is setting the rules, we better grant an honourable exemption to TFWA President Erik Juul-Mortensen).

Perhaps all duty free stores worldwide could also unite in barring World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan, though it is unlikely that she would have been seen buying her 200 Marlboro Lites anyway.

What a marvellous expression of fervent nationalism the duty free industry could become. Just think, Brazilian stores could have banned German footballing ace Toni Kroos and his teammates for the humiliation he and they reaped on the home nation in the FIFA World Cup match won 7-1 by Germany.

Equally, territorial disputes could easily be sorted by striking an offending nationality where it hurts – in the duty free allowance. And New Zealand airports could ban Australians from buying duty free because… well… because they are Australian. Ok, it could be disastrous for business but it’s the principle that matters, right?

Or what about the Eurovision Song Contest? If ever Norway is awarded ‘nul points’ again it can get its retaliation in first by prohibiting all other European nationalities from buying on arrival or departure at Oslo Airport. ‘Norwegians only’ (ok,  Ja, we’ll make an exception for Germans)’ will be the bold sign outside the Heinemann door.

Any other suggestions? The best (unless it’s from an Australian) wins a bottle of Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, duty free of course. Please send by e-mail to Martin@TheMoodieReport.com headed ‘Making no allowances’.

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In a  troubled world full of violence, greed and often downright evil, it’s the little things in life that restore your faith in humanity.

And so it came to pass last week during a whistlestop visit to Zürich for an informal dinner with The Nuance Group President Roberto Graziani.

Roberto, like me, is partial to a drop of fine wine and to salute his achievements with Nuance (soon to be owned by Dufry) down the years, I stopped off at the brilliant new Caviar House & Prunier store (above and below) at Heathrow Airport Terminal 2 to buy him something suitable.

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The store has a magnificent range of fine wines including what, at €499,000, must rank as the highest price-point item in airport retail history. In this case make that ‘item’ in the collective sense – a vertical collection of Château Lafite Rothschild spanning 28 vintages from 1984 to 2011. That’s one case times 28 years = 336 bottles. A wine aficionado’s paradise.

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Château Lafite Rothschild is one of France’s most revered wines, one of just four ‘First Growth’ Châteaux in Bordeaux. Its wines consistently top the auction charts, most notably the 1787 vintage (thought to have been owned by Thomas Jefferson), which sold for US$156,000. I can confirm that I was not the buyer.

The Caviar House & Prunier selection, described as ‘the most unique vertical wine collection’ (‘most’ unique – ugh, one of my pet hates) can only be sold as a full 28-case purchase. Each case has been stored unopened in a bonded warehouse in Bordeaux.

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No, I didn’t buy the collection for Mr Graziani (sorry Roberto but my credit card limit was insufficient) but I did pick up an excellent Clos Henri Pinot Noir from Marlborough in my native New Zealand. The purchase was made quickly for, as is my habit, I was running late for my flight. Just how late became clear as I discovered the Swiss aircraft was departing from just about the furthest gate you could possibly imagine in the race from my Terminal 1 check-in to what turned out to be my T2 departure.

It’s been four years since I ran a decent 10k but it felt like I was back in full training as I raced towards the far-off gate B36 with every FID screen yelling (or so it seemed to me) ‘Flight Closing’.

I made it, just, shoe-horned myself into a window seat, where my sweat-drenched look, I believe, convinced a rather alarmed woman next to me that I may just have arrived in from Liberia.

With no time to store the wine overhead I pushed it under the seat in front of me, and proceeded to cool down from my sauna-like state.

Duly, both cooled and calmed down, I arrived in Zürich, where, again as is my habit, I took a walk around the Arrivals store, snapping the odd picture (and even some normal ones).

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I admired a pretty good wine selection (a nice mix of old and new world, with an encouragingly strong range of Swiss labels) and then it hit me… wine… gift… Roberto… oh no!

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Regular readers of this Blog will know that I am prone to the odd spot of, what’s that word again?… ah, yes, now I remember – forgetfulness.

Over the course of 12 years at The Moodie Report I have lost around 20 cell phones; numerous blackberries (probably a few strawberries and blueberries along the way); countless (and I do mean countless) chargers, adaptors and headphones; two passports; a briefcase (appropriately, only briefly); half a dozen or so tape recorders; I estimate around four dozen pairs of spectacles; many duty free purchases (well I do believe in giving back to our industry) and believe it or not at least a dozen shirts (do not ask). Certainly I’ve also lost my way (in airports and in life) on more occasions than I care to name and heck, I’ve probably even lost my mind on occasions.

I raced back to the Swiss Lost & Found office and described my plight. Could I get back to the plane to recover my wine? “Sorry, it is too late. The cleaners will find your item but it will take two to three hours to recover it.”

“Is there nothing you can do? It’s a gift for an important occasion tonight.”

“No, I’m sorry.” The official was friendly but firm. Instead he gave me a card with a telephone number for the main Lost Property office.

Cursing my stupidity in a now time-honoured conversation I have with myself on far too many occasions, I trudged wearily back to the Nuance store. Instead of a gift-wrapped bottle I would have to present Roberto a wine in a ubiqituous green Nuance shopping bag instead.

As mentioned, the collection was pretty good but on New Zealand Pinot Noir I didn’t find what I wanted. Given Roberto’s nationality, I opted instead for a good (in this case exceptional and travel retail exclusive) Amarone from Masi (subject of a recent Blog).

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“Can I be of any assistance?,” a very friendly Nuance shop assistant named Petra asked.

I chatted away to her, describing what had happened to my original purchase, who the wine was for and saying that I could not get through to the Lost Property department. She confirmed that the Masi Amarone was an excellent choice but didn’t stop there.

“Would you like me to try calling Lost Property on my phone?” she continued. She did exactly that, even chatting away in German for me to the man who answered.

Still, it became clear, I was out of luck. It would be Amarone not Pinot Noir for Roberto, Italy not New Zealand.

At the till, Petra spoke to Shop Supervisor Raphaela Prex, relating my experience. ”Let’s see what we can do,” said Raphaela, who took me back to the Swiss desk. Patiently she described again what had happened, mentioned my significant dinner guest and asked if there was anything that could be done.

We were referred to the main Lost Property office a few minutes away in the airport. As we walked, Raphaela chatted about her life, from her love of football (Liverpool and Bayern Munich) to the All Blacks haka (hey, this is a woman of real taste) and even about English rugby star Johnny Wilkinson (well everyone’s allowed their weakness, right?). She was an utter delight, bright, personable and helpful beyond belief.

When we got there we were met by a nice gentleman who checked for us on the state of the aircraft. “Sorry,” he said a moment later, “the plane has already departed – for Barcelona. Nothing seems to have been found.”

Barcelona! My Marlborough Pinot Noir was heading to Catalonia! The kind man (Mr Santa Croce, I believe was his name, though as I had also forgotten my glasses, I am not sure) took my business card and promised to call me if anything turned up.

And then… something did turn up. Just as we were about to leave, a young man came rushing through to the department carrying a security tray’s collection of items left on the plane. In among various items of clothing, a baby’s dummy (not mine, I hasten to add), and assorted electronic items was the distinctive Caviar House & Prunier bottle bag. And inside it was the now well-travelled Pinot Noir.

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It was one of those quietly exhilirating moments of relief that have regularly punctuated my adult life. I thanked my saviours (pictured above) and walked back with Raphaela to the Arrivals store.

“You have been SO helpful,” I said. “I am so grateful.”

“No, it’s my job,” she replied. “I like to serve people.”

But she went further. And here’s what she said: “I don’t just work in a duty free shop. I try to serve people nicely and make shopping part of the travel journey, part of their experience.”

Wow, that should be a mantra for everyone serving in this industry. And she likes (probably even performs) the haka! Does it get any better?

We bid our farewells and I headed to the new Nuance HQ just a few minutes from the airport. Too few minutes in the view of the taxi driver who grumbled relentlessly all the way there about having waited in the queue for an hour before getting such a short journey. I contrasted him with Petra and Raphaela in terms of being an ambassador for the city and for the airport.

Like all good stories this one has a happy ending and I was duly able to present Roberto with two outstanding wines from our respective home countries. Over dinner at the outstanding AC Hotel Palacio del Alfonso we drank a particularly good Tignanello from Antinori, preceded by a brilliantly refreshing glass of Torres Chardonnay.

I told Roberto about Petra and Raphaela. He noted their names and spoke fondly about the company’s strong service culture and about the people he has led down the years at Nuance. It was a nice evening and a reflective one.

I hope that service culture can be maintained within the constraints of a more financially focused Dufry (which, by the way, has an outstanding human resources department). I hope too that Dufry can bring together the retail excellence of Nuance ( Zürich is very good) with its own admirable disciplines. And I hope (and know) that whoever their employer, both Petra and Raphaela will be recognised as the gems they are, as I discovered on a day when nothing was lost (but instead found) in translation.

One Response to “Lost (and found) in translation”

  1. Raphaela Prex says:

    Dear Mr Moodie

    I am quite aware that you are very busy and your time is precious but do allow me to tell you about my morning.

    I was scheduled for the early shift which starts at 5.45 a.m. but I am usually at the airport by 5.15 a.m. . I just love to spend 30 minutes all by myself at the arrival area, sitting on one of luggage belts and reading my book.

    By 5.45 a.m. I opened the shop, went into my office and started the computer. I usually first check my emails as i always want to keep posted on the daily business and kind of stay ahead of my colleagues. (I know, I know but I have always been kind of a geek.)

    So I was sitting there, sipping my fennel tea and still half asleep scrolling through my messages. One of the very last ones I received was from my boss Michael Martin. I opened it just to find the link to your webpage. As I still had a couple of minutes left before my staff arrived, I started to read it from the very beginning.

    I should probably mention that I am not known for being a emotional person. I am nicknamed “The Iron Lady” or “Colonel” as for… well, the names do speak for themselves. I know that sometimes I do seem a bit tough but I am very loyal towards the company I work for as well as to my staff.

    But reading along I went through so many different emotions. I was smiling first, laughing out loud (especially about the part with the strawberries and blueberries) and being puzzled about the bit with the lost shirts.

    Then I reached the part about the lost wine and suddenly a tear went down my cheek. The last time this kind of feeling happened to me was when I received a email on my birthday from my dad where he compared to being what Tara was to Gerald O`Hara as I am to him. (A land he would live as well as die for.)

    So it is actually me who should be grateful to you for those wonderful, warm and charming words. I just feel so honored and it reassures me that I am at the right place doing exactly the job I do love so much.

    So as well as I played a small part in one of your many journeys, your words will stay part of my journey that I call life.

    I hope we`ll be meeting again the next time you pass through Zurich airport.

    Best regards

    Raphaela

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It’s just over two months since the opening of London Heathrow Terminal 2 : The Queen’s Terminal, and the transition continues for many of the carriers that will eventually use the new facility. The stores and restaurants at T2 won’t reach their full trading potential probably until 2015, as airline capacity builds and as passengers get to understand their new surroundings.

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If, like me, you spent the past two decades arriving or departing Heathrow T1 from Ireland, T2 is a sight to behold. Where once you had to navigate the walkways of a long metal tube to access the crowded arena of boarding gates way beyond the centre core of the old terminal, today it’s a stride or two from check-in through security (currently an easy five minutes or less) and into the spacious airside complex. In that respect, so far so good.

Commercial is housed on two levels, a little like T5, with a mix of retail and F&B on both levels, with the gates leading off from the lower area. It’s quite compact, and those gates are all within fairly easy reach, which should enhance commercial dwell times in the future.

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The retail offer does, as Heathrow Airport promised, carry a British flavour, though how many of the brands really surprise and excite? John Lewis is a fine addition to the portfolio – and its offer is neatly tailored for the airport market with smaller items and some great gifting selections – but is that mirrored elsewhere? Not so much. (We’ll review the World Duty Free Group offer separately soon.)

But there is a channel where T2 does offer a real point of difference, with bespoke concepts and sharp executions, and that’s in food & beverage.

Heston Blumenthal’s The Perfectionists’ Café already looks like a highlight, with an accessible and accessibly priced menu (not always the case with celebrity chef openings), plus fine views over the lower floor and out across the airport.

Ca’puccino is a lovely, modern café with comfortable seating, enticing décor and a nice range; and Caviar House & Prunier, though not a new name, blends a vast restaurant space with iPad ordering with its own top-class retail offer – something new and different from a well-known brand.

Leon restaurant is quite quirky and even the main bar delivers something a little different. The London Pride Pub & Kitchen is bright, airy, comfortable and nothing at all like some of the less than welcoming bar environments at Heathrow and other UK airports. The menu too, though it lean on British classics, is a step above these counterparts in terms of quality.

Hopefully we’ll see some of these outlets up for nomination in future FAB Awards, assuming they can match their originality with strong trading in the months ahead.

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To what God shall we chant our songs of battle?

Oh, to whom shall a song of battle be chanted?

Not to our lord of the hosts on his ancient throne

Drowsing the ages out in Heaven alone.

The celestial choirs are mute, the angels have fled

Word is gone forth abroad that our lord is dead.

- Harold Monro, 1914

“I wish I had more time, I wish I could have the hope of freedom and seeing my family once again, but that ship has sailed.”
- James Foley, 2014

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Last Saturday the All Blacks and the Wallabies (for the uninitiated, the national rugby teams of New Zealand and Australia) played out a nail-biting 12-12 draw in Sydney, in conditions straight out of the bleakest mid-winter scenes of ‘March of the Penguins’.

In pulling off the draw, the (delete expletives here) Aussies stopped the All Blacks from securing a world record 18 consecutive victories. Sport, as ever, can be cruel and the margins between happiness and heartbreak tiny.

As fortune would have it, just two days later as my depression was starting to lift, I was the guest at another head-to-head showing of Australasian (or as we Kiwis say, NewZealandOzasian) excellence, this time born not from Antipodean sporting fields but of the two countries’ respective vineyards.

The wineries were Craggy Range. which produces stunning wines out of Martinborough and Hawkes Bay in New Zealand, and Taylors, which makes an outstanding array of wines out of the beautiful Clare Valley in South Australia.

The tasting (more of that later) was arranged by the irrepressible Barry Geoghegan, Founder & Managing Director of Barry Global Innovation, a specialist wine company operating out of Ireland (it would be wrong, simply wrong of a Kiwi to make any cheap rugby jokes at Ireland’s expense here so I won’t, though if you want one click here), which is determined to raise wine’s profile in travel retail.

The venue was the London headquarters of famed French wine house Louis Latour (which represents both wineries in the UK) and on hand with Barry and me were Craggy Range Sales Director Warren Adamson; Taylors Wines Head of Export Sales Neil Hadley MW; and Laura Klingeman  of Seva Group (based in The Netherlands), which will be selling the wines into Latin America travel retail (Barry represents them on a global travel retail basis).

Make no mistake about the significance of companies such as Craggy Range and Taylors targeting travel retail. As I have suggested repeatedly, wine’s time as a category has finally arrived in our channel. For so long it was dismissed as a low-margin, irrelevant category in duty free. Try telling that to DFS at Hong Kong Kong International Airport, where the retailer generates an average transaction value of US$95 on wine – only about US$5 below that of spirits. That’s what can be done when you offer serious wines presented in a serious way. Yet often, way too often, I see wine displays in airport shops that would embarass the cheapest local market discount retailer.

As I write this, we have hit deadline on our weekly e-Newsletter so I’ll have to stop and go ‘live’ as we say in the publishing business with this preview of the whole Blog. Stay tuned for my tasting notes and some important observations from Neil, Warren and Barry about the future for fine wine in travel retail. And read how a second draw between two Southern Hemisphere giants in the space of three days occurred.

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Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Photoshoot

Is it a horse? A camel? A Dubai Duty Free-sponsored hybrid?

No it’s the world’s first-ever ‘human racehorse’,  conceived to celebrate the world’s premier international jockeys’ competition, today’s Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup at Ascot Racecourse near London.

The giant horse (pictured ‘ridden’ by German jockey Steffi Hofer passing the Ascot winning post) is composed of ten acrobats (see how many you can spot. I’m still trying to figure out which is Colm McLoughlin and which is George Horan).

It took seven hours to create the figure, including five hours for hair and make-up (about the same time it takes me), ultimately creating a six-feet (unlike most horses who only have four) high equine look-alike.

Ascot Racecourse enlisted a team of talented contortionists courtesy of Scarlett Entertainment, and used make-up artists, Civilised Mess, to transform the human bodies using detailed animal artwork. Civilised Mess has previously created designs for Cirque Le Soir and Slamboree.

Now in its 14th year, the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup sees four teams (Great Britain & Ireland, Europe, the Rest of the World and The Girls) of top international jockeys seeking victory by collectively acquiring the most number of points for their team across the six-race card.

Footnote: To stirrup some further interest in this Blog and after a quick Gallop Poll, I’ve decided to add my five favourite Dubai Duty Free-related horse jokes of all time, none of them, I promise, created on the hoof. Here we go:

1) A poorly-looking horse recovering from a heavy night out with Peter Sant and the  Rémy Cointreau travel retail team and the Dubai Duty Free management limps into a bar with a bandage round his head. He orders  a flute of beautifully chilled Piper Heidsieck Champagne, a large balloon glass of Rémy Martin XO and, incredibly, a pint of Cointreau.

He downs  the lot and says to the barman: “I shouldn’t really be drinking this with what  I’ve got?”

“Why, what have you got?”

“About $2 and a carrot!”

2)  Dubai Duty Free Executive Vice Chairman Colm McLoughlin buys a crocked old racehorse and takes it to the vet.

“Will I be able to race this horse  again?” Colm asks.

The vet replies: “Of course, and you’ll probably win.”

3)  A White Horse walks into a pub at Dubai International Airport and asks for a whisky.

The barman says: “Hey,  did you know that Dubai Duty Free sell a whisky named after you.”

The horse replies: “What, Eric?”

4) A Dubai Duty Free executive on an Emirates plane back from the Cannes show wakes up and sees a horse sitting next to him, watching the inflight movie.

“Are you really a horse?” asks the retailer, clearly shocked.

“Yes.”

“Then what are you doing watching an inflight movie?”

The horse replies, “Well, I liked the book.”

5)  Dubai Duty Free President George Horan loses his favourite Montblanc briefcase while doing a store check at Dubai International Airport.

Three weeks later, a horse walks up to him in Concourse A carrying the briefcase in its mouth.

George can’t believe his eyes.

He takes the briefcase out of the horse’s mouth, raises his eyes heavenwards and exclaims, “It’s a miracle!”

“Not really George,” says the horse. “Your initials are engraved on the briefcase.”

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