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What an appropriate moment to post this Blog from Suvarnabhumi, ‘the airport of smiles’, on a holiday weekend in the UK that witnessed a sporting triumph for (and plenty of smiles from) the airport’s master commercial concessionaire King Power International Group.

Yesterday, UK football team Leicester City Football Club, owned by an offshoot of King Power (Group Chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha is its Chairman and Senior Executive Vice President Susan Whelan CEO, pictured below), capped a remarkable late-season rally by thrashing Queen’s Park Rangers 5-1.


Leicester are known affectionately as ‘the Foxes’. And boy, these foxes ran like they were being chased by a pack of rabid, starved hounds over their last nine games, winning seven and drawing one, miraculously escaping the relegation that had seemed almost certain when they were bottom of the table and seven points adrift from safety at the beginning of April.

Certain to some, that is. The Moodie Report’s Foxes followers, yours truly and Leicester-born Helen Pawson, were never in doubt that the team would stay up – even when Helen was assured by former England star Michael Owen that relegation beckoned (I guess he’ll be owen the Foxes an apology).


[You'll be owen us an apology then Michael...]

Retained premiership status spells good news for the store below, the Suvarnabhumi Airport sports boutique dedicated largely to Foxes items (to celebrate the team being in the pink I bought Helen the chic cap second from left below).



The Suvarnabhumi retail offer is generally very good, particularly in core duty free and destination merchandise. King Power has always demonstrated a strong commitment to all layers of society and I like the OTOP (one Tambon, one product – a national scheme to recognise and reward local entrepreneurship) stores very much.




[Shopping and cuisine, both targeted at the Chinese]


[A lovely photo of a lovely, truly tasteful shop]




[Flowers for those orchid moments when you arrive home...]



[O dear, memories are not quite made of this]


I bought two lovely notebooks for my children from the delightful Supatra (below) and I loved her final courtesy, “Thank you for shopping with us.” There was something about the “us”, and the warmth with which she said it, that indicated she felt part of something bigger, a family company, which of course King Power is. Note the cause – sales of products in the store encourage villagers to diversify away from opium crops and make legitimate incomes instead.





This is the area where I feel the travel retail industry badly misses a trick. I see so much good being done by airports, retailers, food & drinks sellers, and brands around the world. Collectively our sector does amazing things for the world. The industry’s various associations tend, understandably perhaps, to focus on largely defensive efforts to ward off threats. How good it would be to see more positive PR on the merits of the channel.

Food & beverage (a terrible industry term which I am going to henceforth rename ‘food & drink’ – what consumer ever talks about ‘beverage’?), as with so many international airports, falls well short of the shopping offer though. The selection of pictures below of the Suvarnabhumi and Phuket airport offers tells its own story. And it’s nowhere near as impressive as that of the flying Foxes, a story that is set to run and run.







[Above and below: Phuket Airport - nice duty free shop, shame about the food]




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This comes to you from The Moodie Report’s interim Phuket bureau. I’m here to help an old (well he’s my age so that truly counts as old) Kiwi friend with his excellent new online Phuket tourism guide, What’s On-Phuket (http://www.on-phuket.com/) while clearing my head from the stresses of recent months and planning the next stage of The Moodie Report’s journey now that I have bought out my fellow shareholder of recent years.


One of my first strategic decisions may be to relocate HQ from Brentford, UK to Thailand such is the exquisite natural beauty of this island and the splendid simplicity of daily life here. When you run your own company holidays are necessarily a hybrid of work and relaxation, mainly the former. But the scenery, sunshine and (occasional) Singha beer makes the work very much a labour of love (something it has always been for me anyway).



As promised in my last Blog, en route to Phuket I stopped off again at the DFS duplex wines, spirits & tobacco store at Changi Airport T3 where I met up with DFS Singapore Regional Merchandise Manager Patricia Sim. Patricia was on-site to organise a special event that evening, featuring an in-store tasting and bottle signing by Jim Beam Global Brand Ambassador Gordan Dundas, one of a series of planned consumer engagements involving DFS’s lead suppliers and its key customers throughout the year.


To be or not to be (in Changi), that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to sip on
The Singapore Slings that arose from outrageous good fortune

- William Shakespeare, Hamlet (almost)



Patricia lives and breathes DFS. People like her are the human tapestry of which great companies are woven. Singapore has long been a great DFS heartland but Patricia and her colleagues know that the retailer has raised its (and the industry’s) game to a whole new level here at T3.

She took me through some of the features that I had missed during my fleeting visit earlier in the week, including a real-time video feed from the Glenfiddich distillery in Dufftown, Scotland that brings the beauty of Banffshire and the magic of single malt making to (real) life right in front of your eyes. Wonderful.



[A distillery worker rolling a cask in the Glenfiddich distillery, all shown via a live stream to Changi]




Enough, however, on Singapore. It’s time instead for a Singha pour and back to the delights of Thailand. It’s lunch time and I can almost see my meal swimming.



One Response to “From Singapore to Singha pour”

  1. Richard Ferne says:

    Good to see Pat Sim being acknowledged.
    DFS wouldn’t be as successful as they have been, at Changi, without Pat & the others that built the DFS business over those many years!
    Cheers from a guy that had sold several DFS Leading Liquor Brands to Pat & her colleagues, for 19 years!

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Talk about the perfect way to raise your average transaction value…

Meet Jenny Tan of DFS Group, who earlier this week  sold a DFS-exclusive range of 28 vintages of Château Mouton Rothschild, the great First Growth Bordeaux, to a single passenger.

Expect Jenny to make many more spectacular sales. For that First Growth offer is just one component of an astounding range of luxury wines & spirits presented on the upper level of DFS’s stunning new duplex liquor & tobacco store at Changi Airport T3, which I visited earlier this week.


This store is quite simply an industry game changer, offering a radical yet refined new dimension in terms of how fine wines & spirits are presented (actually, I prefer the DFS term ‘curated’) in an airport retail environment.

In its press release earlier this month announcing the opening, DFS said the duplex store “redefines the airport shopping experience”. CEO Philippe Schaus noted: “We wanted to offer Singapore, the most renowned travel destination in South East Asia with the most modern airport, a wines & spirits store of a quality and richness unlike anywhere else in the world.”


Believe me, all the hype is justified. And then some. The interior of the store feels like a combination of a Michelin-star restaurant, a private club and a traditional cellar, all in one. It’s gorgeous, entrancing, thrilling.


The store was designed by Masamichi Katayama, a renowned interior designer and founder of the aptly named design firm Wonderwall. There is certainly plenty of wonder here, from the double-height atrium measuring eight metres high, to the dramatic centrepiece (below) above the tasting bar that lights up the whole store like a giant white toadstool. The double-decker wall of fine wines & spirits, housing 998 bottles, may just be the most impressive vista that I have seen in nearly 30 years of monitoring airport retail.



Upstairs there’s a Raffles Long Bar and a boutique area featuring nine wines & spirits brands. You’ll discover an extraordinary selection of rare vintages, malts, Cognacs and much besides, including a range of single casks obtained through a partnership with the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and an eclectic array of DFS exclusives.

There’s the travel trunk-themed Johnnie Walker House and a cellar and cask-inspired Glenfiddich boutique. If, like me, you adore great wines & spirits, you’ll be like an art lover given temporary possession of the Louvre.


There’s lots of surprises too. And quirks, none more so than the Hendrick’s gin zone (step forward the clearly clinically insane person who came up with this mad, wonderful zany notion). Inspired lunacy.



dfs_hendricks_3 (1)



There’s more, much more, including what I consider to be one of the best tobacco areas in travel retail, a walk-in cigar humidor, and a ground-level tasting bar. There’s even a scanning machine (below) that allows shoppers to price compare their items with other Asia Pacific airports.




Changi Airport Group CEO Lee Seow Hiang praises the store’s “stunning façade and double-volume grandeur”, calling it a “design showpiece on its own”.

He is right on the money. Today I fly out of T2 to Thailand. But once I get to Changi I’m making a special trip over to T3, simply to experience this great store again, to take in its excellence, its ambition, its content, its design, and, hey, its sheer sense of wonder.






















One Response to “DFS conveys a sense of wonder at Changi Airport”

  1. Patricia Sim says:

    Dear Martin,
    Thank you very much for this beautifully written blog of our T3 duplex store. The creation of this amazing store will not be possible without the support & partnership with our vendors.
    Have a wonderful week in Phuket.

    With warmest regards

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Ok, it’s official, Jaya Singh is Morgan Freeman.

Close your eyes while the APTRA President and Mondelez World Travel Retail Regional Director is speaking on stage and I swear you will hear what sounds for all the world like the dulcet tones of the American star of Along Came a Spider, Now you see me, Transcedence and Lucy.

And sure enough, there was Jaya on stage yesterday at the TFWA Asia Pacific conference, wearing his APTRA hat, his deep voice (shades of Paul Robeson in there too) as smooth as a dry martini, his oratory as rich and velvety as a First Growth Bordeaux.  One minute he’s noting that travellers should be better informed about duty free allowances, the next minute he’s saying: “I wish I could tell you that Andy fought the good fight and the sisters let him be.”

Wow, he’d just quoted Morgan Freeman’s character from The Shawshank Redemption! Jaya Freeman! Morgan Singh!

Ok, I made that last bit up but you know what I mean, right? So, will the real Morgan Freeman please stand up?


[Morgan Freeman]


[Jaya Singh]

One Response to “Will the real Morgan Freeman please stand up?”

  1. Art Miller says:

    Top blog Moodie-san, more from “Red” Singh…

    “I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can’t be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free”.

    But for you Martin, Andy’s (Tim Robbins) poignant comment most relevant for you (and other cancer survivors), particularly during those dark days not long ago…

    “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies”.

    Keep those green days going strong Moodie-san!

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Welcome to The Moodie Report’s Interim Singapore Bureau, 47 floors up at the Marina Bay Sands.

I, like many members of the travel retail community, am in Singapore for TFWA Asia Pacific, arguably the most vibrant event on the travel retail calendar.

It’s nice to be on the move again having been grounded by a break-in to my car in broad daylight (in a secure, CCTV-controlled carpark) in London a few weeks back, which resulted in the loss of my briefcase, laptop and Kiwi and UK passports. In my world that’s as close to disaster as I care to get but hey, you just have to ‘suck it up’ as modern parlance has it and get on with life.

Perhaps I needed to be grounded for a while anyway. For over the past few weeks I have been negotiating with the company’s controlling shareholder since 2011, the private family trust of the Wampler family, to buy back the company I founded in 2002. I am delighted to say that those negotiations have (subject to contract) been successful and we have reached an amicable agreement.

It is not easy being a minority shareholder in the company you created but I wish to thank the Wampler family for investing in us at a time of great personal difficulty for me in 2011 as I battled to recover from the stomach cancer that had struck me down the previous year. I wish them all very well for the future.

Now it’s onwards and upwards. I am even more delighted to say that Dermot Davitt, who was about to head to pastures new, has rejoined me as a fellow investor and shareholder. ‘The housewives’ favourite’, as I’ve dubbed him for his similarity to chat show host Eamonn Holmes, has been an ever-present force alongside me since 1996 when I selected him from over 100 applicants for a graduate trainee role at Duty-Free News International (DFNI), where I was Managing Director.

I fast-tracked him to Editor within months and he’s never looked back since, joining me in 2006 at The Moodie Report from his base in Galway, Ireland, from where he has played a pivotal role in the company’s development. Now he’s gone from being a senior manager to a part-owner, a very different role that brings with it very different pressures, especially as we set out to pay down the debt associated with the buy-back. But if anyone’s up for the fight, it’s him, and me, and our great team at The Moodie Report.

We’ll be announcing a few major changes in coming weeks. What won’t be changing is our commitment to quality, to Corporate Social Responsibility and to the travel retail industry as a whole. In fact we’ll be stepping up our efforts to a whole new level. In the words of the incomparable Bob Dylan, we’re ‘bringing it all back home’. Back to where it belongs. Back to the house of Moodie.

FOOTNOTE:Dermot Davitt, Rebecca Mann and I (below) celebrated the rebirth of the ‘new Moodie Report’ last night at the home of Sunil and Shikha Tuli, where we also honoured John Sutcliffe’s 60th birthday, together with members of his family. John 60? Impossible. But I know I won’t be far behind him.




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Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way” –Viktor Frankl (neurologist, psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor) ,

So now you know the story I mentioned a couple of weeks back that I wished I did not have to write.

It was, of course, about the passing of Fraser Dunlop, World Duty Free Group Global Head of Food, Souvenirs, Toys & Electronics.


If there was such a thing as a travel retail flag for this great ‘sixth continent’ of an industry as L’Oréal Travel Retail neatly puts it, it would surely be flying at half mast this month. Fraser died on 1 April after what his company rightly called a brave and inspirational struggle with cancer over the past six years. He was just 44.

Yet as always when it comes to the loss of a loved one, even the kindest, most well-intentioned words fall short.

They cannot do justice to either the man or the nature of that six-year ‘struggle’. While on the humankind v disease scale it was very often  exactly that, it was also something extraordinary, a caged man refusing to be enslaved, a trapped drowning man bursting free to the surface and reclaiming his life in giant, joyful gasps; a strong, stubborn and resilient man dictating his own reaction to life’s circumstances rather than being dictated to [the Vicktor Frankl quote above was one of his favourites].

I first got to know Fraser Dunlop well one gloriously sunny mid-Summer’s afternoon in 2011 at World Duty Free headquarters at Bedfont Lakes near Heathrow Airport.

fraser and m

He had agreed to speak to me about his astounding fight against the stage four cancer that had struck him down a little over two years earlier. Despite the difficult subject matter, it was an interview I very much wanted to do and felt I should do. It was less than a year since I, too, had been diagnosed with the disease, in my case stomach cancer, and begun a treatment course of chemotherapy, followed by a full gastrectomy (stomach removal) and more chemo.

Fraser, tanned, smiling, fit-looking, optimistic, was walking talking evidence that this disease, even at its worst, could be stared in the face and defeated.  I’d had a couple of setbacks but here was this man who had taken on much worse and made my own illness look like a common cold. Whereas my oncologist always said I had a shot at beating the damned thing, Fraser had been told his version was “incurable and inoperable”. Given nine to 12 months to live, he was told to “go and say goodbye” to family, friends and work colleagues.

He recalled the specialist’s fateful words. “ ‘Your primaries are nearly blocking your food pipe. The secondary [cancer] is all over your liver. You’ve also got it on your lymph nodes and on your left adrenal gland above your kidney.’

“And he said ‘This is as serious as it gets.’ I said ‘What do you mean?’ And he said ‘Well, this is incurable and this is also inoperable, unfortunately, because we can’t take your stomach out, cut your food pipe and then re-attach your stomach – it’s too dangerous. You’ve got cancer in so many places. You would probably die of the operation and also opening a wound with cancer in your blood is not good.”

“When the doctor told me, the first thing I said was, ‘What will I tell my wife… what will I tell my wife?’ It’s the oddest thing… it’s the first thing that came into my head. ‘What’ll I tell her?’ ”

As he said those words his eyes moistened. Fraser recalled the answer. “He went… ‘You’re just going to have to tell her the truth.’

“ ‘What’s the truth?’ ”

“ ‘The truth is…’ ” There was a long silence. “In the nicest possible way what he was essentially and politely trying to say was ‘Go home, tell your wife, tell your family, tell your work… tell them goodbye, really, because you’re not going to live’ .”

Fraser_Dunlop_300 2

As I wrote in that interview, he did absolutely nothing of the sort. Fraser, the “1% man” challenged the disease at every level, amazing even his oncologists with his degree of knowledge about the cancer and its treatment. He tore back into his work with a vengeance, his jester’s humour not dulled but heightened. And  he embarked on a fitness regime that made the word ‘gruelling’ an abject understatement.

Chemotherapy is a thing of wonder, the ‘silver bullet’ that has pulled so many of us through. But it wearies and ravages as well as cures, attacking the disease but also weakening the body inexorably in the process. In my case I used to work standing up, typing only with two fingers, the acts of sitting down and typing properly simply too much. Fraser, educated, enlightened, challenging Fraser, was made of sterner stuff.

“Probably the most important thing I did (with much encouragement from my wife) was to buy an exercise bike,” he recalled. “I had read about how a lot of exercise can counter the fatigue. And sure enough I would take my drugs, come home and put the kids to sleep and then at 9.30pm jump on the exercise bike. My hands were all sore, my feet were all numb, so the last thing you want to do is exercise. But I did it, for an hour every night.”

What a man. Just how did he find that strength? Tell me that if you will.

In late 2011 he wrote to me just after I returned from the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, noting , “While you were away I had the best type of bad news (?). A routine CA19-9 blood marker test gave elevated readings and then again on testing the following week too. PET scan was generally fine apart from a tiny thimble sized bit of activity on the liver. Baring in mind the number of calcified/dead tumours there I guess this was inevitable one day (one very small and old one has sprung back to life).

“Anyway, I feel and look fine, so thanks god for the regular checks!! I go into Hammersmith Hospital for some local (sirtex) treatment in December. Quite a quick (nuclear) injection into that area and then we are all set once again!!

“What a life this is !!”

I usually hate exclamation marks. Fraser’s I always loved as they denoted so much optimism and sheer bloody belief.

Just before Christmas that  year, another e-mail, this time from his native Scotland.

“I had the ‘superjab last Wednesday, so a bit ropey for a day or two and then back to normal. They will scan etc late January to check again. Blue sky and sun shining this morning on the snow covered hills up here, super stuff!”

Fraser cover

That was another thing I and many others admired about Fraser, the way he would treat his disease and its treatment very much as an everyday matter, like weather, work or sport. And even when it was bad news it would be delivered with perspective and deadpan humour.

I hope the following extracts from an ongoing correspondence that I was honoured to have with him capture Fraser’s unique and indefatigable spirit.

March 2012: Hi Martin, Hope you are as good as you look on all your pages… crikey you are certainly globe trotting!!

Just a note to let you know that the ‘super sirtex’ injection (from December)  has only partially worked……! and so until the docs hatch another revised plan of local treatment they want me to do 2 x cycles of chemo (6 weeks cover) starting tomorrow !! (Just to be safe !!! Urghhh !) So I know what I’m in for….that’s for sure !

Anyway, we choose our attitude as you know and we do what we are told !!! (Although I will have a beer tonight and fly back to Scotland after being in the chair tomorrow pm.  !!)

5 April 2012: I feel totally fine and have been doing the usual 30 min run on my lunch break too ! I expect cycle 2 next week to be a bit worse but then that will be it hopefully.

P.S. I have just finished reading Paxman’s (British) ‘Empire’ book which was also on TV recently. One thing that you and I know well came shining through the many chapters……that being,  how “bloody tough and proud” the Anzacs and the Jocks were and are… “ideal for any battle!!!!

7 August 2012: Hola Martin. I did cycle 7 of chemo last thursday. One ‘wee bit’ left on the liver and so in conjunction with a final cycle 8 later this month, the plan is to ‘nanoknife’ the last one.

Feet and hands bad (same as before) but keeping going and in Madrid working on the tenders this week. Had a lovely break up in Costa Brava area between cycles. 

01 September 2012: Chemo finished this week ! Feet and hands bad with nerve damage but glad its over ! (6 months).

I have a local op’ on monday to blitz the last stubborn tumour and then that should be that !

3 January 2013:  I started the year off nicely with a nice wee PET scan this morning at Charing Cross (as you do…!!)

Ps. I read an article over the festive period about the late UK astronomer Patrick Moore,…..laughed out loud at one of his (many) famous quotes: “At my stage in life I do what Mark Twain did. I get my daily paper, look at the obituaries page and if I’m not there I carry on as usual.”

29 October 2013: Bit of a strange one this time. I went in for some regular ‘ablation/(nanoknife)’ of 2 new tumours that were on a pair of lymph nodes near the aorta. Nothing major really as I have had this procedure 7 times before. (Usually when they pop up on the liver and I stay over and go to work next day !)

Anyway. The tumours were dealt with but ever since the procedure I have been unable to sit up/stand up much due to chronic bowel/bladder pain.??? The docs are perplexed and so I have been trying various drugs to take the pain away and to clear this up !!
4 weeks later and still its a problem. Unfortunately this meant missing Cannes. I hear it all went well.

Glad to see you are out and about which must mean a clear bout of health – super !

18 December 2013: I’m ok. Still ‘battling on’. 

Got a week or two of radio’ therapy to look forward to in the New Year!? And hopefully a good gap in treatment again after that.

Enjoying living in Madrid. Although cold (ish) its great to have no wind and plenty of blue sky/sun most days. Flying to Scotland on Friday night so looking forward to the break. Happy holidays.!

30 April 2014: I write to you today on my 5th year anniversary, (since original diagnosis),  so a rather odd day as you will know… although a good one too –  all things considered.

I did some ‘radio’ treatment in January which has worked well and other than that the odd ‘micro-op’ from time to time to ‘shoot down’ and ablate some unwanted tumours that reoccur. Enjoying life in the sun in Madrid I must say,…..good for the bones.!

10 December 2014:  In  for PET scan today. Still on the capcetabine etc but still controlling the disease with the daily ‘meds’. I will send my regards to SB [a reference to another of my friends, popular industry figure Stuart Bull, who was by this time undergoing cancer treatment].

 P.S. I get up each day and read the obituary section in The Times, if I’m not in it I keep going !!

I won’t repeat what I have written elsewhere about the disease’s ultimate, decisive comeback in 2015. But even when it did Fraser remained upbeat, defiant, still the loving family man, the simultaneous ultimate professional and perennial jester at work; still the champion of fund-raising for cancer research (remarkably, in 2013 he participated in and completed the 2013 L’Etape du Tour, a 130km mountain stage of the Tour de France, raising a significant amount of money for Cancer Research UK, an organisation he felt passionate about).

World Duty Free Group (how very touching and deeply poignant to see some of his closest colleagues gathered in Scotland at his funeral in Scotland this month and doing so much to help Fraser’s wife Carolyn) is organising a celebration of his life in a few weeks. That’s exactly the right word for there is so very, very much to celebrate about this man. A miracle man even in his passing.

One Response to “Fraser Dunlop: Inspiration, jester and miracle man”

  1. Stuart Bull says:


    Thank you so much for writing so sensitively about the battle our dear friend Fraser had with cancer. He was indeed a “miracle man” to have fought so bravely against enormous odds whilst at the same time retaining his sense of humour and humility.

    It was a pleasure to do business with him, he was always tough but fair. It was a privilege to have known him and I truly appreciated the support he gave me.

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“One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.”

“Tequila: a Spanish word meaning ‘I don’t remember doing that…’”

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘tequila’? Shots? Slammers? Seriously debilitating hangovers? If so, time to reconsider a) how you think and b) how you drink, because at the top end at least, tequila has evolved big-time. And it has set its sights firmly on developing further in the travel retail channel.

How I used to feel after slamming tequila in my misspent youth
The first of many excellent Mexican meals

That was broadly the message from Brown-Forman and Patrón Spirits, who jointly hosted a media visit to Mexico after last month’s IAADFS Duty Free Show of the Americas. The ‘tequila immersion’ trip included a tour of both Brown-Forman’s Casa Herradura distillery and the Hacienda Patrón; a horseback ride through the Jalisco agave fields; many wonderful tequila tastings; and more fabulous food than I would normally consume in a week. I admit, I’ve had tougher gigs.

Ready to ride my roan through Casa Herradura’s agave fields

Ambrosial al fresco breakfast with the jimadores

Joking aside, this was more of a privilege than a press trip. Throughout our three days in Mexico we were treated like royalty, wined and dined in Guadalajara’s best restaurants, shown round fascinating facilities and plied with so much ultra-premium tequila that at one point I feared we’d cause a national shortage. On a personal level, I also learned a lot about a spirit I haven’t much indulged in since my student days. It was a real revelation.

Heavy going: the tahona at Casa Herradura’s preserved Taberna factory

100% agave sip-grade tequila, as produced by Brown-Forman and Patrón, is as far removed from the mixto salt-and-lime concoctions of my misspent youth as Lafite is from Lambrini. Ultra-premium tequila is smooth, sophisticated, versatile – and every bit as worthy of respect and appreciation as a decent single malt or XO Cognac. It’s an all-round refined class act that lends itself to cocktails and cuisine, to solitary sipping or imbibing with food. Everyone knows I’m first and foremost a gin girl, but the Old Fashioned with Gran Patrón Piedra I consumed at the Hacienda was the closest I’ve ever come to ecstasy outside of the Millennium Stadium. I’d trade my favourite Louboutins for another in a heartbeat (ditto the accompanying brownie with agave ice cream).

A monogrammed glass? Or roller mill tequila?

That Old Fashioned formed part of an exquisite six-hour lunch that saw the assorted media fully explore (and quite possibly seriously deplete) Patrón’s extensive portfolio. Another equally memorable meal was the al fresco breakfast we consumed at Casa Herradura, following an early morning horseback ride in Jalisco. That trek through the house’s agave fields ranks among my all-time favourite experiences in travel retail (and don’t forget I’ve air-kissed Enrique Iglesias). The scenery was stunning, the atmosphere so tranquil – and we even got to harvest our own agave at the end of it. The freshly-cooked Mexican breakfast (washed down with cans of el Jimador Paloma for the hard core) that followed the ride was utterly ambrosial.

My favourite Old Fashioned made with Gran Patrón Piedra

Much respect to Brown-Forman and Patrón for teaming up this way with an eye on the greater good – I’m struggling to imagine two such powerhouse companies in any other sector being brave and bold enough to do the same. The two houses are very different in terms of history and heritage. Yet both see a bright future for ultra-premium tequila in travel retail, and are prepared to work together to get that message out there, and make that future happen.

Black Magic Woman cocktails = one happy Mann

Their tequila is not about shots and slammers. It’s about tradition, quality, authenticity and taste. It also represents much untapped potential and significant incremental growth opportunities within the industry’s spirits sector, for those retailers with the foresight to stock and suitably showcase it. Salud!

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Foxes never quit.  At least not when they’re Leicester City Football Club foxes.

As regular readers will know, Leicester City (known fondly by their fans as the Foxes) is an English premiership football club owned by an offshoot of Thai travel retailer King Power International (Group Chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha is the club’s Chairman and Senior Executive Vice President Susan Whelan is CEO).


Last year the Foxes won England’s second-tier competition, the Championship, winning promotion to play against the really big boys of the game – Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and, of course, Crystal Palace.

To say the club’s return to football’s upper echelons has been a struggle would be an understatement. Despite playing a nice, neat brand of football, the seemingly luckless Foxes have been at the bottom of the league for most of the season, so far off safety in fact over recent weeks that most pundits had them written off as certain relegation candidates.


But, as I say (and so does the sign in the players’ tunnel), Foxes never quit. Against all odds they had won two games in a row before Saturday’s match against mid-table Swansea (the Swans). Another victory would be a giant leap towards safety.

Now despite my long-time allegiance to the mighty Crystal Palace, I have been supporting Leicester City avidly since King Power’s involvement with the club began. Last year, Leicester City Football Club Foundation named The Moodie Report Foundation (dedicated to funding cancer research) as one of its official charities, a fantastic vote of support for our efforts to combat this appalling disease.

I’d been planning to attend the Swansea game for months. My daughter Sinead, a key member of The Moodie Report team, lives in Swansea with her partner Adrian, a life-long Swans supporter. Susan Whelan had generously offered them (and Adrian’s parents) match tickets and directors’ lounge hospitality. Turning up with four Swansea supporters was probably taking a liberty (stadium) with her generosity but they were welcomed with a warmth none had expected or indeed experienced anywhere else in the football world. That is King Power for you.


[Sinead Moodie, Filbert Fox and Martin Moodie before the big game]

The Moodie loyalties may have been divided but the match spoils were not. Amid incredible crowd support (there was a Latin-looking woman alongside me with a great voice, waving her blue and white scarf. I think it was Gloria Leicesterfan*), Leicester City ran out convincing victors by 2-0, a result that propelled them two places up the table and suddenly looking a more than solid bet for Premiership survival. Make no mistake, the Foxes are on the run.

*Courtesy of www.AnyoneforPunishment.com



[Celebrating the fantastic Mr Foxes: Susan Whelan, Martin Moodie, Sinead Moodie, Craig Norwell (Strategy & Global Customer Director, Diageo Travel Retail & Middle East), Robbie Gill (Susan's husband and Director of The Design Solution) and Rodger Craig (Managing Director, Inflight Initiatives).] 

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la belle dame


To a fallen companion. La Belle Dame Sans Merci by John Keats.


Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.


Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel’s granary is full,
And the harvest’s done.


I see a lily on thy brow,
With anguish moist and fever-dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.


I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful – a faery’s child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.


I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She looked at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan.


I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
A faery’s song.


She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna-dew,
And sure in language strange she said -
‘I love thee true’.


She took me to her elfin grot,
And there she wept and sighed full sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
With kisses four.


And there she lulled me asleep
And there I dreamed – Ah! woe betide! -
The latest dream I ever dreamt
On the cold hill side.


I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried – ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall!’


I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill’s side.


And this is why I sojourn here
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.


One Response to “Oh what can ail thee, knight at arms? Farewell to a fallen friend”

  1. Andrew Torrance says:

    To a great person may you RIP and I look forward to sharing a dram one day and talking about all things Rangers. Take care and god bless.

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DermotDavitt moderating

There are two stories I did not want to write this year. The second (completely unrelated to this one) will come after next Monday. Many readers know what I am talking about. But, alas, write them I must.

For now, let me deal only with the first. Today we announced the forthcoming departure of Deputy Chairman Dermot Davitt (above) to pursue other opportunities at the end of April.

Here I want to talk about the opportunities he not only pursued alongside me but the many he created. Dermot, the Galway-based Dublin boy, has been my constant companion in publishing since 1996 when I somehow selected him out of a range of 100 applicants (all the others based in England; he was living in Ireland. He told me he had worked with Guinness – I hadn’t realised he meant holding it…) for a graduate trainee role at Duty-Free News International (DFNI), where I had just been promoted to Managing Director.

I fast-tracked him to Editor within months and he’s never looked back since. When I left DFNI to set up The Moodie Report in 2002 it was difficult. From colleagues and companions we became competitors – he a very good and tough one, surrounded by very good people. I may be one of the most competitive people on the planet. It strained our friendship but never broke it. I always wanted him to join our fledgling team and in 2006 that opportunity arose when he opted to move to Galway with his wife Michelle, also a DFNI employee.

dd and mm golf

[At the Moodie International Superstars Honorary Invitation Tournament, the 'MIS-HIT', in Cannes in 2013]

DermotDavitt and mm

[Driving Mr Dazy: A relaxed moment post The Trinity Forum 2014 in Taipei]

The location meant he could only work as a freelancer for that title. But with the Moodie ‘virtual’ model, he could do far more. And so I offered him leadership of our then fledgling print division (then just a quarterly, now six annually plus regular supplements, trade association titles and corporate publications).


To say he has been a success in the role is a serious understatement. Our print title quickly became the market leader to top off our considerable digital leadership and has since gone from strength to strength. To say he has achieved much else besides, in his trademark professional, affable, courteous, funny, generous, charming, whole-hearted style, is just the tip of a eulogy that runs much deeper. Of course too many of us leave our eulogies till people are gone. Dermot (he’ll be relieved to know this) is still very much with us and certain, I know, to make a success of his next venture.

As I struggled for life through late 2010 and early 2011, Dermot just stepped up. He edited a DFS 50th anniversary corporate book through the night during the Cannes show while fulfilling all his day and evening responsibilities, maintaining our web coverage and somehow remaining a controlled, considerate human being while coping with a multitude of pressures that would have made lesser people snap, while I lay in recovery from my operation. I never had to worry about my company and I cannot tell you how reassuring that was during the darkest days of my life. Equally when I was carted off to a Bangkok Hospital just after the start of my ‘come-back’ Trinity conference in 2011, Dermot simply took over the reins.

It’s been such a pleasure to watch his development over the past 19 years into an outstanding journalist; a superbly discerning editor; a best-in-class conference moderator (I dubbed him ‘the housewives’ favourite’ after the moniker given to Eamonn Holmes, the Irish host of various UK chat shows).

Dermot is outstandingly popular both internally and externally. His loyalty is second to none. His calm is the perfect foil to my more mercurial nature. But in our shared values, commitment, work ethic and love of the business we are very much alike.

Of course there have been mistakes along the way. The biggest was teaching him to play golf when we both lived in London. Within months he was thrashing me, hitting the ball down the middle, consistent, measured, steady. I, irrationally. ambitiously and always unsuccessfully attempting to hit over lakes 200 yards away (well, even 20 yards away was a challenge), yipping chips and putts, over-excited, occasionally irascible. Golf mirroring life.

By 2013 he was winning the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup. I still remember all of us in the London office gathered around my cell phone as text after text came through from fellow players that Dermot might have won it. And he did! The Dublin boy did good!! There was uproar in the office and in Dubai. It’s fair to say he, now redubbed ‘Dermot Divot’, was the most popular winner ever. A mark of the man.

dermot ddf

[Dermot with Dubai Duty Free Executive Vice Chairman Colm McLoughlin, left, and President George Horan on his big day of sporting triumph in 2013]

As Dermot embarks on the next stage of his life journey I shall soldier on. How very, very strange it will be not to see my calm Lieutenant there, reassuringly, in my slipstream.

And so we beat on, boats against the current, born back ceaselessly into the past. – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

3 Responses to “Farewell to the housewives’ favourite”

  1. S. Corrigan says:

    Dermot Davitt –
    A good golfer – Perhaps.

    A strong swimmer – Not so much (he’ll know what I mean).

    One of the very best and an all around favourite – Undeniably.

    Best of luck to you, Dermot – May our paths cross again soon and often…

  2. Gerry Munday says:

    Several words come to mind and you can be assured they are all nice.

    Dermott you are a great guy, a fabulous friend and your sense of humour is one of the best, you always bring a smile and have always been a great support to me which will never be forgotten, it goes without saying that you will be terribly missed.
    I wish you all the very best in your new venture and hope our paths cross again soon.

  3. One word comes to mind a “Stalwart” – staunch, loyal, faithful, committed, devoted, dedicated, dependable, reliable, steady, constant, trusty, hard-working, vigorous, stable, firm, steadfast, redoubtable, resolute, unswerving, unwavering, unhesitating, unfaltering.

    As a veteran in Travel Retail, I too can remember Dermot in DFNI and the following years with the Moodie Report a gentleman in the industry.
    Good Luck Dermot

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