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T3

I’m at London Heathrow Airport T3, about to jump another long-haul flight. Desperately trying to buy an upgrade from my economy ticket as I need to work non-stop for the next few hours on our Cannes print issue which is looming menacingly over me like a modern- day guillotine.

I’ve had my compulsory Paul Smith fix, having bought yet another pair of the world’s greatest socks from one of the world’s greatest airport stores. The T3 version is a smaller cousin of those at T5 (currently closed for refurbishment) and T2 but it’s pretty damn good all the same. The service is always good (James and Julia chatted away to me today about the various Paul Smith airport stores and served me quickly and graciouslsy).

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I also took the opportunity to conduct my first ‘Moodie Vintage View’ review of an airport wine offer, in this case run by World Duty Free Group. There’s some good wines in there alright but the presentation and merchandising could be better. The newer Heathrow terminals are an improvement but even here it’s clear that World Duty Free is giving a lot of intelligent thought to ranging and segmentation of the offer. Watch out for my review soon.

My flight beckons. No upgrades available so I’ll be writing those late Cannes features with the seat in front of me shoved back (together with my laptop) into my nostrils. Such is the loneliness of the long-distance writer when Cannes press week comes-a-calling.

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Well my friends are gone and my (last) hair is grey
I ache in the places where I used to play
- Leonard Cohen, Tower of Song

“Why haven’t you updated your Blog? Is something wrong?” – an e-mail from a concerned reader 7/10/2014

12 years ago I gave birth. An immaculate conception that created a monster. A little one but a monster all the same. Now it’s grown up to be a real life-size monster that frightens the life out of me every day, unpredictable, hyperactive, irrespressible.

It’s called The Moodie Report and, heck, it’s even got children! And you know what? It won’t stop breeding! The Moodie Blog, The Moodie Podcast, The Moodie View, The Moodie print edition, The Moodie e-Zine, The Moodie e-Newsletter, hey even some cousins such as the recently born My Wine Journey and it is rumoured to be with child again. It’s out of control. Please, someone, help!

Let me explain. In the travel retail publishing world, October is silly season. In the autumn of my mid-life, way back in the serenely calm days of running DFNI in the late 90s and early 21st century, things would get pretty busy around now as we put in long hours preparing our TFWA World Exhibition edition.

Looking back, those days seem akin to sitting on a sun lounger by the pool drinking ice-cold Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc (actually, make that by a pool filled with ice-cold Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc). The great, great Leonard Cohen (whatever else you do today, log onto Amazon and buy his new album Popular Problems, sit back and bask in the presence of genius), at the ripe old age of 74, once said at a UK concert: “It’s been a long time since I stood on the stage in London. It was about 14 or 15 years ago. I was 60 years old, just a kid with a crazy dream.”

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I feel a bit like that. 2002, age 46, just a kid with a crazy dream. The Monster was about to climb out of his cage. Now it’s like this – Dear Abbie – I’m a father at nearly 60 and I can’t control my family!

In the travel retail publishing world 2014-style, at least in The Moodie Report version, things are a little different from the halcyon 90s. For a start we have to deal with one of the monster’s most disruptive children – The Trinity Forum – in mid-September (now a permanent timing for the event). I won’t even begin to bore you with details of how much work around-the-Big Ben-sized-clock that involves for the likes of Dermot Divot (sorry, Davitt, this is not a golf Blog), me and Sarah Genest. Writing intros, speeches, moderating notes long into the night and (just as often) on a piece of paper minutes before you go on stage (or, frequently, while you are on stage).

And the rest of the business doesn’t just stop because you’re up on stage trying to entertain, inform and stimulate 350 people, managing technical hitches and pretending to appear calm when your brain is on the verge of a rather messy stress explosion. There is also that worst-behaved monster’s child of all, The Moodie Report.com, to maintain day and night – big breaking stories at 05.30 in the morning that just make you want to cry when the pressure is at bursting point. How dare you go buy The Nuance Group Dufry! How dare World Duty Free Group be so inconsiderate as to announce it is seeking business alliances! Believe it or not, the stories that most excite me sometimes also draw a barrage of curses out of my inner soul that helps explain why I am surrounded by so many monstrous kids.

Since then it’s been a case of combining the day and night job with the not-so-small matter of trying to produce our biggest-ever Cannes Print Edition, a special ‘Category Insight’ fashion supplement (another young, already badly behaved child), and an amazing (though I say so myself, take a bow Dermot Davitt and John Rimmer, their work not mine) TFWA corporate publication, maybe the best client publication I have seen in travel retail.

I’m thinking of having Dermot and me fitted with a new GPS device that measures our written word count each day. I reckon at our current rate, either of us could have bashed out War & Peace in under a week. Tolstoy you had it easy!

When I retire, a prospect that starts to entice me inexorably, blissfully, magnetically, seductively like the Sirens’ song did entice Odysseus in Homer’s The Odyssey (by the way did you know that he played golf? Well he did, which gave rise to that old song, Homer on the Range), I am going to write a best-selling autobiography called Free of Duty at Last. It will be twice the size of Don Quixote (940 pages), involve just as much travel (no windmills though I will tilt at a few other things) and I shall knock it all out over a couple of bottles of Cloudy Bay, Matua, Giesen or Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc (maybe two of each), making sure along the way it is embedded with video and podcasts.

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I have lost count of how many features this tyrant of a Print Editor called Davitt expects of me by next Tuesday. If I did stop to make the calculation I might just go in search of a family of lemmings and join them on their next day-trip out. Along the way, we’ll crank out another e-Zine, write and give a speech (yesterday at the JCDecaux airport advertising workshop), and ensure ‘the website that never sleeps’ doesn’t reach for the anti-insomnia drugs.

So, dear concerned reader (I knew I had one out there…) that is what happened to my Blog, another monstrous monster’s child. But here’s the thing. You know, I love each and every one of them. Monsters eh? Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em. That’s why for me the Monsters’ Ball remains the only party in town.

 

 

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[Dermot 'Divot' and Martin Moodie preparing for Ryder Cup action]

I’ve escaped intact, exhilarated in fact from four days at the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles near Edinburgh, despite being holed up with some of the most dangerous company in travel retail.

Courtesy of Dubai Duty Free Executive Vice Chairman Colm McLoughlin, I and my loyal lieutenant Dermot Davitt (the current holder of the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup) have been attending golf’s most famous and exciting event, meeting a surprising number of travel retail executives on the fairways and in the hospitality areas of the exquisite Gleneagles course in Perthshire.

In golf parlance, I teed off rather poorly when, in my excitement at what lay ahead, I clean forgot to pick up my suitcase from a perfect lie on the carousel at Edinburgh Airport, discovering as the cab pulled into my hotel (the excellent Fraser Suites) that it was an errant drive. Back we went, and back we came. Me cursing like Phil Mickleson at the post-Ryder Cup press conference, my driver a very happy man indeed.

Delighted to have finally reached my hotel, I was a little taken aback to see the room set-up. I was sharing a junior suite with Dermot (who had arrived a day earlier), though only in the knowledge that the original double bed arrangement would be changed to two singles. It had been. Right next to one another.

Strategically moving my suitcase and a large bedside table and lamp between the two beds (I had no barbed wire), I settled in for what would be an eventful few days.

Let me explain the context to the above comments. I am perfectly happy to share a room with Dermot ‘Divot’ who is as straight as a Rory McIlroy drive but we’ve got ‘previous’ you see.

Way back in 2010 we were both stranded in New York for many days after the volcanic eruption of Mount Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland caused global aviation crisis from the resultant ash fall-out.

On that occasion Dermot and I became modern-day reincarnations of Steve Martin and John Candy in the classic 80s film comedy Planes, Trains and Automobiles – in which a businessman (Steve Martin) struggles to travel home across America for Thanksgiving amid a total airline shutdown, with an obnoxious slob of a shower ring salesman (played by the brilliant, sadly departed Candy) his only companion.

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[Planes, Trains & Automobiles - the original]

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[And now the remake...]

Naturally at the time we argued who should play who, but I won as my three tufts of hair were the same silver as Steve Martin’s and anyway I share his name. Be afraid, very, very afraid next time Dermot tries to sell you a shower ring…

But on that occasion, at least, unlike the original heroes we did not have to share a bed (giving rise to the film’s immortal line, “Pillows? Those aren’t pillows!”). This time was different. Almost.

Needless to say, Colm and Breeda McLoughlin and their brilliant entourage of friends (including ex-Abu Dhabi Duty Free boss Mohamed Mounib and wife Karen and several pals of Colm and Breeda) took great delight in ribbing me about my choice of room partner for one of the great sporting events on the planet. Next time I’ll opt for Europe’s Lee Westwood. He’s bound to snore less and won’t keep me up drinking until post tee-time the next morning.

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[Left to right: Karen Mounib, Dermot 'Divot', Mohamed Mounib, Colm McLoughlin, Martin Moodie and Breeda McLoughlin]

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But to be (briefly) serious, what an occasion. Put Perthshire (the region surrounding Gleneagles) on your bucket list of places to go before you die. No matter if your game is as bad as mine play this beautiful course. Not “a good walk spoiled” as Mark Twain said of golf but a great walk enhanced by the sheer pleasure of being there.

Make Edinburgh right up there in your top ten cities you simply must visit. It’s both ancient and modern, understated and visually exquisite. It’s a place where you can walk for hours and just soak it in, inhabited by some of the warmest (even in winter time) people on the planet.

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[Bunker mentality: Sergio Garcia prepares to get up and down from one of Gleneagles' many sand traps]

And then there was the golf. Crowds 20 deep craning their necks to gain a sight of these modern-day gladiators. The teenage prodigy McIlroy, grown not just to be a man but a sporting god. The American wunderkinds, those two tough as teak Texans Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth. The towering, flowering, never rambling Rose called Justin. The pride of the Welsh valleys called Jamie Donaldson. The unbreakable Northern Irish spirit that was Graeme McDowell. The crazed, self-administering Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) volcanic eruption of a man that was Ian Poulter after holing an impossible and crucial chip. And so many more.

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[Martin Moodie points the way towards the golfing god that is Rory McIlroy at the beginning of the final day's singles]

A privilege to witness it.  A privilege to be in the company of great people like the McLoughlins, the Mounibs and their wonderful UAE friends. And a privilege to spend quality time with a golfing legend. No not Rory McIlroy. The Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup champion John Candy, I mean Dermot Divot.

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[Above and below: Getting up close and personal with the American supporters]

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[Within minutes of the result, triumphant European supporters were sporting celebratory t-shirts]

One Response to “Planes, Trains & Automobiles – the Ryder Cup Return”

  1. Johan Schölvinck says:

    Hi Martin and Dermot,

    Great reading, your Ryder Cup adventure!

    While watching the BBC in NL and contemplating the near-inclusion in the Ryder Cup team of our Dutch golfing hero Joost Luiten (who did win the Welsh Open as a consolation), while celebrating the European win and seeing the best ever commercial for European cohesion take place, and now reading about your adventures, I can’t think but:

    -You two certainly formed a Fourball in the hotel, albeit not a King Pair (cricket). A Foursome was apparently not granted by Paul McGinley since you two were with four Scottish-Arab team members
    -The word ‘whisky’ was not mentioned in your blog, but I did see a Guinness and Marlborough white chardonnay on the bar picture, so what happened on the course and how did you fill up the Ryder Cup?
    -Martin, you are unwrapping nice girls in American flags, please tell me what happened as next step?

    So where does your next sporting blog come from? Ireland-New Zealand is not one of the upcoming rugby union autumn internationals…and you two are in different pools in the cricket world cup in Oz/NZ in Feb/March…hmmm…

    I fear I have to invite you over for some hockey match where the Dutch are involved and buy you a beer and a wine!

    Thanks for the nice blog, as ever,

    Johan Schölvinck

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I used to think Cannes was tough – but that was before I did London Fashion Week. Reader, after just three days racing around the whole of south east London, beset by serious hair and outfit angst, suddenly the prospect of five days on the Riviera is looking positively restful. It’s taken me a fortnight to recover sufficiently to even Blog.

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And so it begins…the Toni & Guy team in action backstage at the Marchesa show

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The master Mark Hampton backstage at Sophia Webster

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Model No 1 heads to make-up after Hampton’s hands finish their work

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True blue: Hampton’s interpretation of cyber-punk meets jungle

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Shoe heaven at Sophia Webster

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The actual James Read applying his best-selling self tan

Make no mistake – London Fashion Week is WILD. I was privileged enough to be invited backstage at four shows (and sit front of house at one), to watch Toni & Guy HairMeetWardrobe Global Hair Ambassador Mark Hampton and his talented team style the hair of hundreds of models at the Marchesa, Sophia Webster, Matthew Williamson and Vivienne Westwood shows.

It was genuinely fascinating. These people can work magic, with no hair request impossible. From silly o’clock in the morning (the call time for Sophia Webster was 6.30am on a Sunday) to mighty late at night, Hampton and his hairdressers created a range of different looks that included “pre-festival Boho chic” at Marchesa to “cyber-punk meets jungle” at Sophia Webster. I adored the latter’s bright cobalt dreadlocks, but my personal favourite was the gorgeous, glossy Marie Helvin-inspired curls at Matthew Williamson.

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Backstage at Matthew Williamson, channelling Marie Helvin

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The pre-show Matthew Williamson catwalk at One Great George Street

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Glossy curls complement the clothes on the runway at Matthew Williamson

Believe me, in hair terms, there is nothing the Toni & Guy crew cannot do. And they do it in cramped, inhospitable spaces, teaming with hot lights, stressed-out make-up artists, spray-tan tents, shrieking people with clipboards, and the occasional sobbing model. For the uninitiated it’s hard to convey the atmosphere backstage but it’s a heady mix of panic, adrenaline, skill, speed and fear. In that respect it’s the fashion world’s equivalent of press day, except they do it repeatedly, multiple times on consecutive days, racing from one location to the next and starting from scratch each time. That Hampton did it all with a smile on his face – and managed to film videos and deliver mini-presentations to the press WHILE STYLING – is nothing short of miraculous. When I’m passing pages on press day I’m barely civil to myself.

But then Hampton is a bit of a star – and a very savvy signing by Toni & Guy. The inked, handsome Welshman could arguably grace the runways himself, but is far more than just a pretty face. He studied at Vidal Sassoon, honing his craft before assisting Guido Palau, one of the world’s greatest session stylists, for almost seven years. He oozes talent, charisma and a wicked sense of humour, effortlessly de-mystifying trends and how best to use a styling product.

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The afternoon shift: backstage at Vivienne Westwood

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Some tools of the trade on display

But Hampton doesn’t just follow trends; he creates them. At the Toni & Guy HairMeetWardrobe Global Style Hub event during LFW, Hampton previewed the four key looks he has devised for Spring/Summer 2015: City Sunlight, Floating Gardens, Worldwide Vibe and Contemplation. And in a feat I, as a child of the 80s, still can’t quite believe, he even demonstrated how to make a scrunchie look cool (in my very own hair! Swoon…)

Toni & Guy’s collaboration with Hampton, and indeed the brand’s ongoing partnership with London Fashion Week, does a sterling job of underlining its fashion credentials and British heritage, elements that translate into a key point of difference for the travel retail channel. Earlier this year Unilever International Global Travel Retail Business Manager Rosalyn Frayna told The Moodie Report: “Being involved with London Fashion Week solidifies the ‘Britishness’ of the brand. The fact that it’s a British brand in London Fashion Week makes it a product that has a unique quality in travel retail.”

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At the Style Hub Hampton shows the fash pack how to wear a scrunchie

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Hair by Hampton: The Moodie Report’s Rebecca Mann rocks a rad new look

Hair care remains a fledgling category in the channel, but Toni & Guy has made good initial progress, with further expansion expected. Other hair brands, such Moroccanoil, and even the mighty L’Oréal group, are also eyeing the channel with interest.

But back to London Fashion Week. I conclude this Blog with the key lessons I learned during my debut tour of duty:
- Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to participate without the Google Maps app, a London A-Z, and a pair of flats for those awkward between-show sprints.
- Sprints aside, it’s illegal to not wear vertiginous heels.
- Wear any colour you like – so long as it’s black.
- There is no such thing as too much make-up.
- Carry Berocca, plasters, painkillers, breath mints, sunglasses, Red Bull and (optional) vodka miniatures (don’t judge).
- Act nonchalant backstage, even if the models are naked/crying hysterically/both.
- Do NOT touch the shoes.
- Do not be too proud to sit on the floor next to the toilets if your iPhone is dying and the only free plug point in the entire building is located there.
- Welshmen rock (like that’s news).
- So do scrunchies.

Remember, you heard it here first. I’m off to practise my back-combing.

One Response to “Hairing around London Fashion Week with Toni & Guy”

  1. Nice Blog Rebecca but I take issue with this statement: “It’s the fashion world’s equivalent of press day, except they do it repeatedly, multiple times on consecutive days, racing from one location to the next and starting from scratch each time.”

    My average press day is every day, usually starting at 6am and never ending before 11pm, often ‘racing from one location to the next’ (flying from city to city) and ‘starting from scratch each time’ (the many various Moodie Report Interim Bureaux down the years have housed plenty of Moodie tantrums when the wi-fi won’t work). All this to room service, morning, noon and night and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc for company.

    Whereas this lot get “naked models” (alright the odd one sobs a bit) and are constantly pampered in terms not only of catering but attention as they indeed pamper others so brilliantly themselves.

    But hey, I’m probably not the Toni & Guy target market. Because while you say: “Believe me, in hair terms, there is nothing the Toni & Guy crew cannot do” – actually there is. They can’t do mine.

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Welcome to The Moodie Blog’s first roving bureau. I’m writing this from the Fraser Suites in beautiful Edinburgh but I’ll be updating it from Gleneagles, about an hour from here.

No, there’s not a lot of travel retail business going on at Gleneagles – but there’s a lot of travel retail executives there.

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That’s because a small golf tournament kicked off there today. You might have heard about it. It’s called the Ryder Cup. I’m here courtesy of Colm McLoughlin of Dubai Duty Free who has kindly invited me and my partner in publishing crime Dermot Davitt (current holder of the Dubai Duty Free Gold World Cup championship and henceforth referred to as Dermot Divot).

I arrived a day later than the rest due to the needs of The Moodie e-Zine but I’m making up for lost time fast.

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Left to right; Martin Moodie, Dermot Divot and Michael McGinley

Last night we had drinks at a private function hosted by Michael McGinley, a prominent Dubai-based supplier to the duty free industry and brother to European team captain Paul McGinley. Michael is no mean golfer himself (he plays off 1) but was pipped to the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup last year by 1 point by none other than the aforementioned Dermot Divot. So you can imagine the banter last night.

An early night was called for after the function ended. But in the company of Colm and Divot, the call was not heeded. Divot is dangerous. Last night he was flying as all good Divots do. Always beware of the three most dangerous words in the English language when uttered by him – “Fancy a nightcap?”

As it happened I did. Then came the next four most dangerous words in the Divot vocabulary, “One for the road?”

That could have been fine. Alas, let’s just say that one (both drink and road) was not the final number.

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Dermot Divot and Colm McLoughlin

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I’m exhausted. Mentally. Physically. Every which way. Running an event such as The Trinity Forum simply takes it all out of you. Besides the intensity of the preparation, it’s the pressure-cooker atmosphere of managing the introductions, the time-keeping, the speeches, the speakers, the room, the audience, the question and answer sessions and much more besides that really drains you.

I’m my own harshest critic and I always relive every moment of every session, thinking what could have been done different or better. I hate the slightest audio-visual glitch, or any other shortcoming.  My co-moderator Dermot Davitt (utterly brilliant over the past few days) is similarly perfectionist and was equally tired at the end of it all.

Hats off to my whole amazing team, in fact, from brilliant staff such as Rebecca Earley, Rebecca Mann, Sinead Moodie, Helen Pawson, Jon Elphick, Ray Heath, Gavin Lipsith, Connie Magner, Bob Wilby and Ed Lake who didn’t get to even see the event but contributed so much, to the excellent on-site team of Victoria Bowskill, Melody Ng, Matt Willey, Sarah Genest, Dermot Davitt and Claire Wates. In addition to the Forum itself, the publications below (plus a major opening video) were all produced in the preceding fortnight, some against all the odds.

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That feeling was eased significantly by the superb staff at the Ever Rich Duty Free-run Huan Yu VIP Terminal (below), who made our entry and exit into/from Taipei as seamless, efficient and friendly as you would fine anywhere in the world. The Trinity Forum-themed buggy was just typical of the little touches that Ever Rich Duty Free and Taoyuan Airport specialise in.

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Le Clos Taipei VIP

Tiredness aside though, we’re feeling a quiet sense of satisfaction at a job well done. Last night I flew to Dubai with Dermot (he then went on to Dublin, me to London) and it must be said that we partook of a celebratory glass or three of the excellent Voyager Sauvignon Blanc Semillon from Australia’s Margaret River onboard Emirates maybe interrupted by the odd (never drink even numbers) of Moët & Chandon Champagne, as we pored over events of the past few days.

The only real verdict that matters of course is that of the consumer – in this case our delegates, host, sponsors and speakers. Given that we had to switch both the date and venue for this year’s Trinity, we were delighted at the overall attendence (around 345 delegates) and, more importantly, the quality of attendant. 16 of the world’s leading travel retailers were present,  as were most of its top food & beverage operators; 45 airports (including last-minute additions from Incheon and Indonesia); and many great brands.

Delegates rightly expect a number of benefits from industry conferences: great networking; good content married to efficient programme management; real insight and learnings; top-class facilities and hospitality.

It has to be said that our Taiwan hosts and event sponsors – Taoyuan Airport, Ever Rich Duty Free and Tasa Meng – excelled themselves. What wonderful, warm and gracious people they were. My personal highlight was giving The Moodie Report’s first-ever Humanitarian The Moodie Report Humanitarian Award for Outstanding Commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility in travel retail to Ever Rich Duty Free Chairman Simon Chiang (below) at the Gala Dinner on Thursday night.

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I have written many times about Mr Chiang’s leadership in giving back to the community. From the Chairman down to the newest sales advisor or the warehouse worker, the Ever Rich team are wholly committed to making society a better place. I know many rich men, some of whom regularly write cheques to good causes. I know few, who immerse themselves in the cause of humanity than Mr Chiang.

I noted on Thursday night: “Ever Rich’s combination of personal and corporate commitment has led to remarkable results across communities at home and abroad; in support for the young, the old, the disadvantaged, the dispossessed, the desperate. It has led to a wholehearted commitment to promoting the country’s heritage, history, commerce, crafts, culture, tastes and traditions, not least at Taoyuan Airport.

“That generosity of spirit is driven by the vision of one man, the generosity of one man – a remarkable, humble man who started three charity foundations in memory of his father – another man who always thought of others first despite hailing from a small and poor rural part of Taiwan – and has carried his care for the community around him throughout his buisness life.”

When he came on stage to receive the award, Mr Chiang was as humble as ever, saying “We must do more. We must keep doing more for others.” It was very moving and several tears were shed by his team and business associates as he accepted a long standing ovation.

The following evening our excellent partners at ACI and Asia Pacific and my team were invited to a private dinner at Ever Rich’s magnificent headquarters in Neihu. We took along with us as our guest Maritime Mercantile International (MMI) and Emirates Leisure Retail Group CEO Andrew Day, one of the star speakers of The Trinity Forum. Mr and Mrs Chiang and son and daughter Kevin and Michelle treated us magnificently, with some outstanding food and wines (Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Mouton-Rothschild) but more importantly the warmth of the family welcome. An unforgettable night.

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[Simon Chiang presents Martin Moodie with a beautiful Taiwanese tapestry on Friday evening]

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[From left: Maritime Mercantile International and Emirates Leisure Retail Group CEO Andrew Day, Martin Moodie, Victoria Bowskill, Matt Willey and Dermot Davitt of The Moodie Report]

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photo1During our stopover at Dubai International T3 we stopped off to look at one of the Le Clos stores run there by MMI – surely the best wines and premium spirits shops in travel retail. We spoke at length with sales advisor Sandy (pictured) whose knowledge of and passion for wine was deeply impressive. As we were about to depart the store for our flights, he asked if we were Messrs Moodie and Davitt. It turned out that Andrew Day had left a bottle of nice Feltham Road (excellent New Zealand Pinot Noir from Central Otago) for each of us. What a classy touch.

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Le Clos (2)Thank you Andrew. Thank you Taipei. Thank you Taoyuan Airport and its partners Ever Rich Duty Free and Tasa Meng for being such gracious hosts. Now it’s back to the day job and a few short weeks to prepare our major edition of the year, our Cannes print issue. Time to take a deep breath and then it’s all on again.

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There are plenty of party animals in travel retail and, I daresay, the occasional spot of monkey business, so the choice of venue for the Travel Retail Consortium’s (TRC) annual Business Lunch last week – London Zoo – was nothing short of inspired.

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London Zoo was an inspired venue for the TRC 2014 Business Lunch

As usual, the day proved to be a splendid affair, with TRC members joined by selected retailers and media guests, all of whom enjoyed a slap-up lunch and some excellent networking opportunities.

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The day began with bubbles in front of the wallaby enclosure

The event – blessed by glorious sunshine – began with an al fresco Taittinger Champagne reception in front of the wallaby enclosure (not your average Friday, eh?) before moving into the Mappin Pavilion for the main event. A delicious meal was complemented by some rather fine vintages – Accolade Wines’ Flagstone Music Room Cabernet Sauvignon proved especially popular, and will be a regular feature from now on chez Mann (Rupert Firbank, you should be in sales. Oh, wait).

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The entire event was imbued with an innovative animal theme

This year’s guest speaker was comedian, writer, musician and philanthropist Tony Hawks – a favourite author of my long suffering spouse, who can quote huge chunks of Round Ireland With A Fridge and was almost inspired to take up the game after reading Playing The Moldovans At Tennis.

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The party table gets ready to rock…

Hawks began by explaining that he was not, in fact, the grandmaster of skateboarding Tony Hawk (though he does endeavour to respond to all skateboarding queries in his own inimitable style, despite a complete dearth of knowledge on the subject). The theme of his speech was “betting” – a central tenet of his best-selling books (reader note: bet high if Hawks ever asks you to guess how many times he can bounce a golf ball on a club).

The golf club interlude was followed swiftly by a skit with a guitar (Hawks reached number four in the UK in 1988 with Stutter Rap and number one in Australia). His speech – and singing – was peppered with killer one-liners, and was entertaining indeed.

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…fuelled by a bottle or three of this rather splendid beverage

But there is a serious side to Hawks and his work. After visiting Moldova he came up with the idea of starting a care centre for needy children in Chisinau, donating half the royalties from his book into a fund for the project.

This altruism dovetails perfectly with the TRC’s commitment to raising funds for charity. Accordingly, the London Zoo lunch incorporated a charity raffle which raised well over £700 on the day. That sum will be added to other monies raised by TRC throughout the year, and presented to nominated charity The Beacon Centre in Guildford, which provides much-needed care and services (including palliative care), for people diagnosed with life-changing, progressive illnesses.

In addition, in keeping with the lunch’s animal theme, TRC Chairman Richard Thorpe announced that an additional donation would be made to the Manchester Dogs’ Home, which was set ablaze last week in a suspected arson attack that killed more than 60 animals.

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Guest speaker Tony Hawks (centre) flanked by TRC Chairman Richard Thorpe and The Moodie Report’s Rebecca Mann

Huge thanks to Richard and indeed the entire TRC for their excellent hospitality, and congratulations on a memorable lunch imbued with a generous touch of animal magic.

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Tomorrow’s historic vote on whether Scotland should be an independent country (Yes) or remain part of the UK (No), could have unexpected benefits for both nations’ duty free industries, writes our Glasgow correspondent Mai Sporran.

Should a majority of the approximate 4 million voters say Yes, then Scotland will become independent. In that event, huge questions arise regarding the country’s currency (it currently uses the Pound Sterling) and its membership of the European Union.

According to the BBC, the Scottish Government’s  White Paper on independence acknowledges that “negotiations” would be required and that it would be for EU member states to decide how to proceed.

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[How the BBC illustrated its latest coverage]

It continues: “The process would need to be agreed. Never before has part of an EU member state become an independent country and sought to remain in the Union. There is no specific provision for this scenario in the EU Treaties.

“The Scottish government believes that membership could be negotiated in the 18 months between a Yes vote and its target date for independence in March 2016.”

If the Yes vote prevails and EU membership was either delayed or denied, Scottish airports would be able to reintroduce duty free shopping for passengers bound to European Union countries. Similarly, so would EU-based retailers serving Scotland-bound passengers.

Duty free shop chains on the Scottish and English sides of the land border between the two countries are another firm possibility.

The Moodie Blog has confirmed reports that three former World Duty Free Group, BAA and Diageo executives have formed a Duty Free Americas-like border shop company, so that they can move fast in the event of a Yes vote.

“Och aye, we plan to buy land on the A1 to open a cross-border travel retail store with outlets on either side of the border,” a well-placed source told us. “The UK shops will trade as Tartan Fettered on the English side and Sassenachs Away on the other.”

Besides core duty free items, the company plans to major on a new range of Scottish destination items, including the Rumpled Kilt Skin line of designer pyjamas; deep-fried Mars bars; Haggis-aged single malt whisky and warmed Scottish oat biscuits, which are expected to sell like hot cakes.

We’ll bring you more on this story as it happens.

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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.

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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.

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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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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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