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It’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby day and I’m up with the finches and robins this morning to fly to Ireland to attend one of travel retail’s great social and sporting events.

On the eve of this year’s big race, the great sporting festival (Dubai Duty Free sponsors three days of racing and a charity dinner) has been boosted by the travel retailer’s decision to extend its sponsorship “until at least 2017″.

Dubai Duty Free Executive Vice-Chairman Colm McLoughlin (pictured centre below) said: “We have been working together with the Curragh racecourse to create a festival that incorporates premier racing, fashion, food and fun. Over the years we have added more ancillary activities both on and off the track.

“This year we worked with the communities in Newbridge and Kildare Town to have more activities off the track in a bid to create a sense of festival in the surrounding areas. We are delighted to be the title sponsor of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby.”


Great news and all part of a commitment to community, sports, art, Ireland and the UAE that sets Dubai Duty Free apart as a leader in our industry.

Now, as usual, I am bringing The Moodie Report’s anonymous tipster with me, to help racegoers and online viewers alike sort out the likely (or unlikely) winner of this year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby. His (it appears to be a him, wouldn’t you say?) track record is pretty impressive though he says so himself.

However, there has been the odd disaster along the way, notably in 2012 when I was forced to sack him… sorry, he decided to pursue other challenges… after recommending that readers avoid the red-hot 1/5 favourite and wonder horse Camelot because of a squilimetre of rain that had fallen the night before and instead back noted mudlark Light Heavy (pictured below in its new career as a shire horse).

“Put your mortgage on it,” urged the Tipster. Apparently more than one reader did and the Tipster was forced into hiding for three years under a hay bale in a barn just outside Wicklow.

Light heavy

Today though, in honour of Dubai Duty Free’s decision to extend its sponsorship, we are matching fire with fire and extending The Moodie Tipster’s contract (though possibly not his life) and bringing him back “until at least Saturday evening”.

With our standard statutory guidance that the value of your investment may (and probably will) go down as well as up, here is how The Moodie Tipster sees today’s prospects.


Of the eight runners, the perennially successful trainer of winners in this race Aidan O’Brien has four of them. That’s half the field according to The Moodie Tipster’s finely tuned mathematical analysis and each one of them is as big a danger in this race as Light Heavy is to the shire mares in its Kildare paddock.

O’Brien declared the track at the Curragh in “beautiful condition”, but only one owner, trainer and jockey (and maybe a certain Tipster) will be saying that come Saturday evening. So here we go:

Jack Hobbs: Runner up in the Investec (English) Derby and thus hotter than a Russell Hobbs (no relation) kettle at boiling point. Actually you’d need a boil over for the favourite to be beaten – he’s going out at 4/5, which means if you bet €400 million and Jack Hobbs wins, then you’ve just made €100 million. This is a superb investment strategy which could transform the fortunes of the travel retail industry if followed. However, there is a slight snag. If Jack Hobbs loses, then it will be like having two Gulf wars, SARS, MERS, the volcano ash cloud crisis, the Asian financial crisis and the Great Depression all occurring on the same day of trading. And believe me, there will be a snag…

Highland Reel: This appears to be O’Brien’s best hope of maintaining his remarkable success record, having run a great race to be second in the French Derby and having top jockey Ryan Moore onboard. Currently 4/1 but the odds are set to be shortening. So will Jack Hobbs’ legs have to be though for this 3yo bay colt to win. Back this one and you’ll be settling for a Highland malt to drown a Reel disaster.

Qualify: O’Brien’s most intriguing runner, a shock 50/1 winner of the Oaks at Epsom and ridden by none other than Colm McLoughlin! Sorry, I misread the race guide, make that Colm O’Donoghue. But that’s close enough for me and listen to the words of O’Brien:Qualify is the interesting one. Colm gave her a lovely ride in the Oaks, and the last furlong she came home very strong. The Curragh will suit her.” It will indeed. I can see The Moodie Report headlines now: “Colm rides winner of Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby!” You read it here first.

Giovanni Canaletto: Sounds like a brand of Italian ice cream and almost certainly likely to melt in the heat of the long Curragh finishing straight. Despite O’Brien’s influence, save your money and go buy a Cornetto instead.

Kilimanjaro: The last of O’Brien’s quartet and that’s exactly where he will finish. You can dismiss O’Brien’s comment “I think a small field will suit him better” – that just means he’ll be beaten by fewer than usual. By all means put your money on him becoming the first horse to scale the famous Tanzanian mountain of the same name but save your investment here.

Radanpour: Interesting. But so was Solzhenitsyn and the great Russian author’s chances are probably better than the so-far unbeaten colt’s chances today. Radanpour has a high-quality trainer in Dermot Weld but it might as well be Dermot Davitt for all the hope he has today. He gained his entry by winning the King George V Cup at Leopardstown earlier this month, no mean feat. But Jack Hobbs’ are no mean feet either and Radanpour’s simply won’t be quick enough, especially as he loves soft ground. With the weather looking good, it’s a case of when it (doesn’t) rain it Radanpours.

Storm The Stars: Third favourite at around 8-1, the Investec Derby third-placed runner won’t be storming anything today except the horse cart to take it home. Its trainer is a certain William Haggas and while there’s no connection to the like-named Scottish savoury pudding, the latter has all the heart and lungs you need. Storm the Stars doesn’t. I worry about William Haggas’ quote too – “The horse is very well and we came to the conclusion if we didn’t run he couldn’t win.” Mmmm… Mr Haggas clearly has a very sharp brain. But we’ve come to the conclusion that even if Storm The Stars does run assisted by Lewis Hamilton towing him behind his Formula 1 Mercedes, he couldn’t win.

Carbon Dating: Now you would need to use carbon dating to find any trace of form in this 3yo Irish colt’s background. But at 100/1 this long shot represents an interesting, albeit high-risk betting opportunity.

Let’s take that €400 million that you’ve decided not to put on Jack Hobbs after all and place it on the 3yo Irish colt instead. Let’s just say that there is a terrible pile-up mid-way through the race after Jack Hobbs takes fright at the fact that the rest of the field are a lap behind and turns back to join his mates. Let’s just say that Qualify then spots a beautiful brood mare in season in a nearby field, jumps the fence and has his wicked way. Let’s just say that all the other jockeys are banned after getting off their horses, pitching their tents and boiling up some tea while waiting for Carbon Dating to catch up. Let’s just say, ok? Then you have just made €40,000,000,000! You are a trillionaire! And all down to me. So you will share it won’t you?

The Moodie Tipster’s Prediction:

  1. Qualify (Ireland)*
  2. Jack Hobbs (England)*

* Qualify and Jack Hobbs will actually dead heat but Qualify wins in a penalty shoot-out as everyone knows the English can’t play football.

3. Carbon Dating (because at 100 to one if you bet your €400 million on a place, and he runs third, you’ll still get €4 trillion).

Postscript: Despite The Moodie Tipster’s defence that he had picked Jack Hobbs as “the joint winner”,  he is once again pursuing other opportunities after the abject failure of his main tip, Qualify, in Saturday’s big race. Jack Hobbs thrashed his seven rivals, winning by a record-winning five lengths from Storm the Stars, Giovanni Canaletto and Kilimanjaro. Qualify only beat two home, the hapless Carbon Dating and the out of sorts Radanpour.

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1) The facts.

New Zealand Customs Minister Nicky Wagner says Customs has destroyed over 2.5 tonnes of abandoned tobacco and collected NZ$1.35 million in additional duty and taxes since the drop in duty free allowances from 250 sticks to 50 last November.

2) The spin.

“People seem to be learning about the change,” Ms Wagner said in a government press release. “The amount of tobacco abandoned at airports by those not wanting to pay duty is dropping from the 100 kilograms Customs was initially collecting every week.

“The change was well signalled in advance and advertising to highlight the change continues. Customs’ passenger surveys show most people are aware of and accept the change in regulations.

“Customs recorded over 7,600 individual transactions for people choosing to pay duty, with the total collected in the six months adding to over NZ$1.35 million.

“Nonetheless, 2.5 tonnes of cigarettes and tobacco left at airports is an incredible amount, and I’m pleased Customs is actively supporting the aim of making New Zealand smoke-free by 2025,” Ms Wagner says.

Associate Health Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga added: “The amount, 2.5 tonnes, is staggering. Every time a traveller abandons their tobacco at Customs or decides not to bring it in at all, is a victory for our health system.”

Directly contradicting his earlier statement Lotu-Iiga added: “The fact that people appear to be aware of the changes to our duty free tobacco limits and accept them is confirmation that our Government’s policies are making a real difference.”

3) The implications and unanswered questions.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the tobacco health argument, 2.5 tonnes of abandoned tobacco product and NZ$1.35 million of duty collection are worrying numbers. Of the product generating both statistics, how much was bought ‘duty free’ at an overseas airport? A high proportion one suspects.

Minister Wagner says the allowance reduction was “signalled in advance and advertising to highlight the change continues”. But where and who to? Who are these people abandoning tobacco? Where are they from? Where did they buy their products?

Given that New Zealanders are presumably well aware of the allowance changes (especially if Ms Wagner is right), it’s a fair bet that a significant percentage of those abandoning their tobacco products are international visitors, which raises some critical issues.

Firstly, if they bought their cigarettes duty free at an overseas airport, why were they not told that the items would be dutiable (or seized) in New Zealand? And secondly, by punishing international visitors who smoke, is New Zealand really, as Mr Lotu-Iiga went on to claim, “reducing the harm tobacco causes and the cost to our health system”? Or simply penalising tourists who choose to smoke?

The first question needs to be addressed urgently by any airport retailer selling (under false pretences, let’s not beat around the bush) to New Zealand-bound passengers. The second question begs another… why not have a two-tier structure – one for homebound Kiwis and one for international visitors?

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Travel retail executives often talk about the ‘shop window effect’ of airport retail but what is your favourite actual shop window in the channel?

Shop window displays, like airport advertising, have always held a trainspotter-like fascination for me. I’ve long considered Hermès just about anywhere to be best-in-class but there are plenty of rivals. Over coming months I’m running a competition to identify the best shop window visual merchandising in airport retail, featuring the various selections and culminating in a year-end top ten with a grand prize to the winner.

But I’m not going to do all the work – or all the judging. Send me your nominations via e-mail to Martin@TheMoodieReport.com

Here’s a couple of my favourites to get the ball rolling. Smythson in the run-up to Father’s Day at London Heathrow Airport T5 and right next door Fortnum & Mason. Fun. Enticing. Lovely. And cool. In fact, in Smythson’s case, Daddy Cool.

Shop window 1

Shop window 2

Shop window smyth

Shop window smyth 2

Shop window Smyth final

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“The Ultimate Business Competition since 1992.” No, we’re not talking European duty free since the European Commission tried to scrap the business that year (finally succeeding in 1999) but a tremendous, long-running innovation by French beauty products giant L’Oreal called Brandstorm.

Brandstorm is L’Oréal’s unique business competition for students globally to unleash their creativity and apply ground-breaking ideas to one of the group’s international brands and distribution channels.

Since 1992 Brandstorm has given over 70,000 students worldwide the possibility to work on real-life challenges and be coached by top L’Oréal executives.

I’m here in Paris to witness the finals of this year’s event, which for the first time is dedicated to travel retail. How did some of the world’s brightest young minds go about the challenge of creating an “unforgettable retail experience” and turn passengers into shoppers?


We’ll find out soon enough. The 45 winning national teams from all around the world are gathered here to make their presentations and to discover who has won the top three prizes.  It should be an amazing and exciting evening. Just as excitingly, the winning entry will be presented at The Trinity Forum in Hong Kong on 16-18 September. Our sector needs constant challenging and a never-ending injection of new ideas. Brandstorm will provide exactly that.


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I’ve just been out for a cheeky Nandos.

Now you, like me, may ask “What’s a cheeky Nandos?”

The answer depends on who you talk to. ‘Know your Meme.com’ says the following:

Cheeky Nando’s is a British expression typically used on social media to describe a quality dining experience at the South African restaurant chain Nando’s. In late 2014, the phrase began trending in captions of selfie photographs featuring subjects making an ‘A-OK” hand signal. The British slang term ‘cheeky’ is often used to describe someone who is exhibiting charming or irreverent behavior. The exact origin of the phrase ‘cheeky Nando’s’ is unclear. The earliest known use was featured in the title of a hip hop track uploaded by Buzy Ray

But I guess you knew that all along, right?

gat 1

This explanation comes via Buzzfeed.com

You know when you go down town with the lads and you all realize you’re hank marvin’ so you say “lads let’s go Maccers” but your mate Smithy a.k.a. The Bantersaurus Rex has some mula left on his nandos gift card and he’s like “mate let’s a have a cheeky nandos on me” and you go “Smithy my son you’re an absolute ledge” so you go have an extra cheeky nandos with a side order of Top Quality Banter 

Is it becoming clearer now? Thought not.


Anyway, cheeky or otherwise, I’ve just had a Nando’s. Well a Churrasco Thigh Burger washed down with a Mango Quencher at Nando’s, Gatwick Airport, to be precise.

I was dining with Gatwick Airport Head of Retail Spencer Sheen and Business Development Manager, Catering & Services Charlotte Christiansen and colleagues. Spencer and Charlotte were keen to show me Nando’s, opened a year ago in a European airport debut for the popular restaurant chain and we were joined briefly by Guy Stephenson, Chief Commercial Officer.

The place, like all the South Terminal’s restaurants, was humming. Packed with people, buzzing with music (no, not Buzy Ray but what is known as ‘Afro-Lusoo’, a blend of African/Portuguese roots), resplendent with great art on the walls, and overall as full of funk as fowl (Nando’s specialises in chicken dishes).

It’s a happening place in a happening airport. As I’ve written in this Blog before, Gatwick is one of the world’s most improved airports. Its food & drinks offer, from the superb Comptoir Libanais, to the outstanding Red Lion pub, to the always top-class Caviar House & Prunier to the arguably peerless Jamie’s Italian restaurant is consistently and diversely excellent. And Gatwick’s travellers are voting with their palates and pounds, giving it an overall 80% rating of good or excellent and driving tremendous growth in revenues.

gat 2

gat 3

Guy, Spencer and Charlotte talk constantly about customer engagement and experience and consumer relevance. They’re not just words bandied around as jargon; you feel (and see) that the management team really walks the walk. “We want to be a fantastic airport,” says Spencer.

Anyone who remembers the old Gatwick Airport (before privatisation) and contrasts it with the new, would say the company is a long way advanced to fulfilling that mission. As always when I spend time with airport management I learned a lot today. Hey, I even picked up a new catchphrase. It may have been my first but it won’t be my last cheeky Nandos.






[Eggcentrically innovative): A mobile charging station housed in an ostrich egg] 


[Caviar House & Prunier: Always top-class]


[Pret a Manger]


[No need for a caption here. And just look at  those crowds.]











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Remember Ollie? Silly question. How could anyone forget Ollie?

Ollie is the 9 year-old nephew of Sara Stevens (sstevens@thenuancegroup.com), HR & Training Manager for The Nuance Group (UK) in Southampton.

He has spent a long time in Birmingham Children’s Hospital undergoing gruelling treatment for a rare bone cancer called Ewing Sarcoma. During nine months of chemotherapy, he somehow drove a campaign to raise over £28,000 for charities that have helped him in his battle with the disease.

On 18 May Ollie had an operation called a ‘rotation pasty’, which involved his leg being partially amputated and then grafted back onto his thigh bone, making his ankle bone his new knee joint. In a few weeks he will be fitted for a prostheses, which is being partly funded by sales of special Ollie ‘Weejee’s Warriors – Kicking Cancer’s Butt’ wristbands. To learn more or donate please visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/935296666528285/?fref=ts


[High-wrist strategy: Wearing an Ollie ‘Weejee’s Warriors – Kicking Cancer’s Butt’ wristband in Haiti during my visit to the travel retail/Hand in Hand for Haiti-funded school, Lycée Jean-Baptiste Point du Sable

Now a minimum £2,000 has been added to the fund. As I revealed in an earlier Blog, Andrew Torrance, Managing Director of The Whisky Shop in London, has offered a very special bottle of single malt, The Glenfiddich Rare Collection 1992 Single Cask, for auction to help raise money for Ollie.

Details of the bottle can be found at https://www.whiskyshop.com/glenfiddich-1992-whisky-shop-exclusive

I had offered a bid of £1,500 but this has been topped by… none other than Andrew himself with a blockbuster £2,000 offer. What a man Andrew is, with a heart bigger than a Glenfiddich whisky still. But surely the price for this superb malt could go much higher? If you’d like to help, please send your bid to me at Martin@TheMoodieReport.com headed ‘Ollie Glenfiddich 1992 Auction’.


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I’m at Toussaint Louverture Airport in Port au Prince, Haiti, flying back from an unforgettable experience at the Lycée Jean-Baptiste Point du Sable, the wondrous, world-class school inspired by and funded by the belief and commitment of the travel retail industry.

I’ve spent several great days with the inspirational Olivier Bottrie, President, Travel Retailing Worldwide of Estée Lauder Companies but more importantly (at least in this context) the driving force (along with ex-DFS Chairman Ed Brennan) behind the charity that created the school, Hand in Hand for Haiti,

As I reflect on a momentous few days it’s time for a cold bottle of the local beer, ‘Prestige’, at the airport canteen, then the long journey home via Miami International. It’s 5 years since I was last here, just after the earthquake. I was struck down with stomach cancer weeks later and never had the chance to visit what I helped create. Until now. I am a blessed man to have the opportunity to return. Our school stands as a role model (actually I think THE role model) of responsible, controlled, carefully managed fund-raising and reconstruction.


So much foreign aid was wasted here after the quake. Not a cent of our industry’s massive contribution was. And you know, 80% (next year 90%) of the kids come from poor backgrounds. The job’s not over. Far from it. We need to sustain its upkeep for years to come – there’s no-one here to take over.

Please, if you will, take a look into the eyes of the beautiful young children below. It tells you everything you need to know. Rejuvenation of a country starts with hope. Hope starts with education. Education starts with the young. Haiti, one hour from Miami, yet the most impoverished nation in the western Hemisphere. Let’s stand, as our charity is called, Hand in Hand with Haiti.








[This image shows all the school's current 300 pupils]haiti_lest_we_forget

[Let's not forget why we built the school in Haiti. Just over five years ago, over 200,000 people lost their lives here, including these students and a teacher from the wonderful Lycee (school) Alexandre Dumas in Port au Prince']

haiti_message haiti_ob_and_am

[French Ambassador to Haiti Elisabeth Beton Delegue and Olivier Bottrie meet our school's children and teachers]





[The class of 2015 - 300 kids, mostly from poor backgrounds, given the chance of education they would never have had]


[There's 12563 kilometers or 7806 miles between Dubai and Haiti. But you wouldn't know it when you visit the Hand in Hand for Haiti school in Saint Marc, Lycée Jean-Baptiste Point du Sable. Dubai Duty Free was the lead funder in creating a world-class sports complex for kids (80% of whom come from poverty-stricken backgrounds) who would not even know the meaning of privilege. Bravo Dubai Duty Free, bravo the travel retail industry for what you have created here at this great school.]




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Down by the white of Lauder
He wears no necktie but a Panama hat
His passport shows a face
From another time and place
He looks nothin’ like that
And all the remnants of his recent past
Are scattered in the wild wind
He walks across the marble floor
Where a voice from the duty free store is callin’ him to come on in
He smiles, walks the other way
As the last plane flies and the moon fades away
From Heathrow today

- With (serious) apologies to Bob Dylan

I am turning into Bill Murray. In fact I’m combining his roles. Mainly Groundhog Day of course (set partly in Heathrow T5 and, for fans of horror movies, the Admiral’s Club at Miami International) but with more than a passing reference to the jet-lagged hero in Lost in Translation (but with the conspicuous absence of Scarlett Johansson).

I’m back at T5, about to cross the Atlantic again (albeit this time to New York JFK instead of Miami – I will fly back from the latter though), en route to Haiti to check out progress on the travel retail industry-funded Hand in Hand for Haiti school in St Marc, together with Estee Lauder’s travel retail boss Olivier Bottrie, the driving force behind this remarkable project.

London-Miami-Panama-Miami-London-Basle-London-New York-Haiti-Miami-London within the space of a few days. I wonder if I can buy a London Transport-style weekly travel card to save money?

Behind me in the picture below is one of the main World Duty Free Group stores at T5. As I passed I gave a nod to a very great man in the sky, the recently deceased Fraser Dunlop. Earlier in the day I joined a lovely celebration of his life at a church a few miles up the road, attended by his wife Carolyn and many World Duty Free colleagues and suppliers. Oh Fraser, you got taken too soon.


The Whisky Shop’s Andrew Torrance gave one of several poignant readings at the service. His was entitled ‘The Main in the Arena’ from a speech by Theodore Roosevelt. It begins, “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles , or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust, and sweat, and blood.”


I thought about that a lot today. Sometimes I have criticised WDFG’s confectionery offer; I know that must have irked Fraser (though he never mentioned it), who was so closely involved with and committed to the category. I always try to be balanced in my criticisms, sometimes sharp but never forgetting that there are people out there every day trying their best to do well what can so easily be criticised by the casual observer. Today I saw the beating heart of those WDFG people, who celebrated (the right word) a man who was always in the arena.



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Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of Basel
With the Mulhouse blues again. – With apologies to Bob Dylan

rsz_berts (1)

Welcome to Bert’s.

I am at EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg and I may be here for a long, long time.


Having got up earlier than the birds today to catch an early flight from Gatwick to Basel and finished my single meet on time,  I wanted to get home earlier than my planned 17.25 return to Gatwick. A 16.00 to London Luton (despite a longer journey from the airport to my home in West London) seemed the perfect opportunity and duly the friendly counter assistant at the easyJet changed my ticket.

Alas, “due to the late arrival of the incoming aircraft”, the 16.00 has just been put back to 17.15.

“Can I change back to the Gatwick flight?” I asked the woman at the gate boarding counter.

“Yes you can Sir, but the Gatwick flight is also delayed, by around 45 minutes.”

“Oh no. Why?”

“Due to the late arrival of the incoming aircraft,” she (or perhaps a recorded message inside her jacket, like the Buzz Lightyear toy) replied.

I am losing the will to live. I am tired. I got back from Panama via Miami Airport (and, more importantly, via the Admiral’s Club Lounge) on Saturday and this is not what the doctor ordered. Virtually every reader will identify with (and no doubt have said) the words I am currently thinking: “And people think I have a glamourous job. Actually at times like this it sucks.”

If you want glamour, Bert’s, one of two eateries (the other a coffee kiosk) beyond immigration, and a perfectly serviceable snack bar, is probably not for you. But you head there of course because you don’t know that last week’s plane still hasn’t arrived and probably won’t for around a month.

I bought a cobb salad and, to accompany my mood, a bottle of lemon (bitter of course). The most notable thing about Bert’s is the magnificent giant handlebar moustache that adorns the features of a very assertive, large man who runs the place. I wonder if he is Bert?

The Dufry ‘walk-through’ store is a disappointment. The main shop is cluttered and generally unenticing. Definitely not the Swiss giant at its best; the saving grace being the Lindt display in the centre of the shop complete with live chocolate making.



Switzerland has some great destination products and there’s no excuse for a shop of a reasonable scale such as this not to show it off via more than a single promotion. How about talking those Swiss wines and spirits up, for example, not just sitting them on a floor unit? The walk-through is in fact a very unsubtle, forced ‘push-through’ and I noticed many passengers, no doubt regular travellers, sparing themselves the walk by taking the shorter cabin crew and staff detour.

16.45 and there is still no sign of that “incoming aircraft”. I fear I may be at Bert’s for some time.









One Response to “Bert’s blues in Basel”

  1. Michel says:

    I feel you do not have retail experience or you should spend more time to analyse before to comment

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panama panorama

Welcome to The Moodie Report Interim Panama Bureau. This morning I was woken up by the lapping of the waves on the shore below my room and the chirping of the birds (actually, in this social media age, I guess they were tweeting). A little piece of Central American paradise.

I’m here for the annual ASUTIL conference where I’ll be the concluding speaker on the second day tomorrow (a clever piece of timing by the organisers, who are obviously determined to clear the room quickly).

I’ve been coming to this conference for many years now since the very first one in Rio de Janeiro in 1997 and it’s been fascinating to watch the rollercoaster, stop-start evolution of the region’s travel retail sector since. It’s been a bit like watching someone learn to drive. Lots of stalling, sharp braking and occasionally (deliberately or not) full speed ahead, sometimes followed by a crash into a brick wall.

Right now things are very tough, driven by fickle currencies and a generally sombre economic environment. Despite that, some 347 delegates have turned up this year to ASUTIL (I expect about 3 of them to still be in the room by the time I speak), drawn no doubt by the event’s ability to bring together an impressive number of South and Central American and Caribbean travel retailers in one place at one time.

Dufry’s Rene Riedi, in the stand-out presentation of the conference’s first-day, also made it clear how positively the industry giant sees the future across these diverse regions, highlighting anticipated passenger growth by air and sea as well as tremendous development in airport infrastructure and airline fleets.

pan mm and friend resized

["I'll have the octopus please..."]

To get to Panama I flew from the consistently excellent Heathrow T5 through the rather more variable Miami International Airport. I am starting to feel like an extra from Groundhog Day, so many times have I been through the Florida gateway in recent months (and besides flying through there tomorrow to London I’m back again next week en route from Haiti). The staff at the American Airlines-run Admiral’s Club Lounge are always as chirpy as the birds outside my Panama bureau window but the ambience is about as exciting as a prison cell on death row and the food decidedly worse. Appropriately then I tend to lose the will to live when I enter the place and consign myself to a few lumps of sweaty cheddar cheese and a Chardonnay with more oak in it than Sherwood Forest. I think Robin Hood might be the winemaker.

Never mind, there’s plenty that is good about Miami International, notably the quite wonderful Britto shop (pictured below) featuring the work of the famous pop artist, one of my favourite airport shops.

Tonight is the Gala Dinner, always a highlight of ASUTIL. Despite being in the company of some decidedly dangerous company I shall limit myself to a single glass (the largest one I can find admittedly) of Sauvignon Blanc. After all, I’ve got a conference room to clear tomorrow.

miami britto ext



[Ok am I the only person to be confused by this sign? So would you opt for Connecting Flights or Other Connecting Flights?]

miami smoking tgi

[This is interesting. TGI Fridays has opened a space for smokers to dine, adjacent to the main restaurant. A first in airport food & drinks?]

miami smoking 2 thi

One Response to “Groundhog day in Miami; Paradise in Panama”

  1. Peter says:

    yes you are the only one to be confused Moodie san, “American Airlines” connecting flights to the left, “all other” connecting flights straight on. Too much sauvignon blanc I reackon.

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