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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.


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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

One Response to “Farewell to the housewives’ favourite”

  1. 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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eurostar 2

The title of that lovely Simon & Garfunkel song (and album) came immediately to mind this morning as the most unwelcome of alarms woke me at the very unlovely hour of 3a.m.

If it’s Wednesday (or any day with a Y in it) it must be a French air traffic controllers’ strike. And so indeed it is. Faced with the choice of a cross-channel swim (never my strongest suit) or Eurostar to get to Paris for a meeting with L’Oréal Travel Retail Managing Director Vincent Boinay, I’ve opted for the latter. After an early morning shift on the website that, like its creator, never sleeps, I’m here at the rather good Continental Bar St Pancras sipping on a necessarily strong Cappuccino.

The staff here are to a woman cheery and welcoming despite the unseemly hour. Not, you’ll note, to a man. There is only one male here, in fact, among a staff of six and ever since I sat down at the counter he has been shouting, gesticulating and generally being a pain in the derrière to his colleagues and his sole customer – me. I suspect he is a moonlighting air traffic controller and if he carries on like this all day, I can guarantee he’ll stop the traffic here too. He’s bespectacled and a spectacle all in one noisy, intensely irritable human being. I think he aspires to be an auctioneer. “A Cappuccino and croissant… going once, going twice, SOLD to the tired-looking bald man in the white shirt!”

Even as I write, he’s done it again. His genteel colleague has just asked the day’s second customer, “Can I help you?” Maybe she was too softly spoken for his liking. So he chooses to repeat the question, this time at a million decibels. “CAN I HELP YOU?” he booms [yes CAPITALS indicates SHOUTING]. He smiles. He’s very pleased with himself. Do you think, dear readers, it would be alright if I punched him on his nez? Then again I think his colleagues might beat me to it. If looks could kill he’s a dead man walking.

It’s hard to believe we’re into April already in travel retail land. So far it’s been a slow month. Heck, Dufry hasn’t bought anyone since last month. Let’s hope it stays that way. I may be able to sleep all the way to Paris.


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From a reader (a leading global travel retail director) after The Moodie Report’s Breaking News Alert this morning about Aelia, Dufry and Relay France capturing key retail concessions at Nice Airport.

“Moodie San , after all that had happened this week don’t put Dufry and Aelia in the same sentence entitled ‘Breaking News!!’ Blimey I thought Dufry has bought another one!!!”

I guess he must have been reading our story for next week…

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T5 WDF 2

I’m not travelling today.

Sorry, yes I am. April Fool’s. Got you didn’t I?

Of course I’m travelling. The day’s got a Y in it hasn’t it? This year has flown by like a tornado ripping across the deep south of the USA. And in travel retail terms more seems to have happened in the first three months than one could reasonably expect in a year. I think I have spent more time on planes than off them and I constantly have to check myself during meetings to see I have not taken my belt and shoes off, so conditioned am I to going through airport security.

I’m at London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5, my second home and still, I think, one of the world’s best airports.

It was with some nostalgia that I looked up at the World Duty Free fascia over the open store frontage. I half expected it to say ‘Dufry’. Now that would have been an April Fool’s. But only just.


We, and the industry at large, are still taking in the almost breathtaking ambition of Dufry’s rapid-fire acquisitions of The Nuance Group and World Duty Free Group. What was that about tornados? Both deals in themselves were momentous. The double whammy simply redefines the sector.

I kind of hope that April might be a little quieter. In this age of real-time media, covering such events can be (and is) exhausting. I’m about to sleep throughout the long-haul journey that lies ahead. No meal, no movies, no Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (ok, maybe two out of three).

First though, some observations on T5′s retail. It’s of course slick and diverse. And it will be interesting to see that in due course whether Dufry ownership changes World Duty Free’s approach here. There’s a widely held industry perception that Nuance was a better retailer (I’m talking merchandising, promotions and so on; certainly not though in the critical area of profitability) than Dufry. The same would go for World Duty Free over Dufry though I don’t believe these stores look as good as they did in former CEO Mark Riches’ heyday (he was a stickler for good sight lines and consistent gondola heights, for example; sometimes today you feel you are walking through an impenetrable maze).

I’m not so sure about the much-touted Louis Vuitton store either, not a patch on the original airport boutique at Incheon International, especially in terms of actual physical location (the pictures below tell their own story) but also window display and internal fit-out.

T5 vuitton external

t5 vuitton by seats

T5 vuitton bins

T5 Vuitton internal

My long-time favourite T5 boutique, Paul Smith (below), has had a radical makeover. The new look is cool and chic of course but it loses much of the quirkiness and sense of shopper discovery that its predecessor had.

t5 paul smith 2

I’m also not convinced by the Fortnum & Mason seafood bar. The colours make me sleepy not excited. Give me the vitality of Caviar House & Prunier any time. And why, as with the latter, no charging points? In a business travel-dominated terminal, that’s unforgivable.

T5 Fort

t5 Rolex

Just opposite Louis Vuitton, I liked this image (above) of a businessman chatting on his phone while he eyed up the latest Rolex model. When I came into this business what feels like a century ago, neither Rolex nor Vuitton bothered to hide their contempt for airport retail. How very, very much has changed in our industry. Look at the glittering roll-call of Singaporean and Qatari sovereign wealth funds that Dufry has lined up to help fund its World Duty Free takeover. That says everything about how the travel retail sector is now viewed by the investment community.

It’s almost time to fly. I feel a Rip Van Winkle-length sleep coming on. Wake me up at the end of the flight will you? I’ll probably be dreaming that Dufry has just bought Lagardere Services and Gebr Heinemann.

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Do you think the travel retail industry sometimes shoots itself in the foot?

I do. And here’s a glaring example.  It’s an advertisement for a cigarette brand, published in an international travel retail publication during the Duty Free Show of the Americas in Orlando.

The brand is called Double Happiness. Perhaps it should have been called Double Illness, for that’s exactly what the advertisement emphasises. Now I know all about Canadian duty free tobacco regulations and restrictions (which include an insistence on some of the most graphic health warnings on the planet). But actually, does this advertising benefit anyone? It is, quite simply, grotesque.

“A single stroke can leave you helpless,” proclaims one pack. “I was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx when I was 48,” says the other. “I had to have my vocal chords removed and now I breathe through a hole in my throat – Leroy.”

I wonder exactly how the brand measures the effectiveness of this advertising?

And here’s one I prepared earlier…

Let me give you another example, quoted in an earlier Blog, from Miami International Airport. At the risk of repeating myself, I will… repeat myself.

If you wonder why airport food generally has a low place in public affection  then signs like the one below might explain it. It reads: “Airport good food… three words you don’t often see together.” It’s positioned outside La Carreta Cuban Kitchen (below) and besides the fact that I wouldn’t say the food looks spectacularly good to me (nor the décor), I really do question why an airport restaurateur would perpetuate a long-time negative stereotype about food & beverage.






In fairness the outlet has been rated highly by Conde Naste Traveller but so have many other airport restaurants. So let’s not go singling ourselves out for glory while damning our competitors and the reputation of the sector, ok?

In my keynote speech at the OTG conference last week, I criticised how airports and their restaurateurs often communicate with passengers, notably in terms of signage that is anything but appetising. I include an examples below from Hong Kong International Airport pointing to an SSP Food Court, in which I can’t tell if the man with the chopsticks and rice is eating or throwing up (but I sure as heck know that it doesn’t make me hungry).


HKIA bad sign 1


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It’s been an incredible week in travel retail, and a tragic one in the aviation industry.

The latter must come first. The tragedy of Germanwings flight 4U9525, flown into the side of a mountain by co-pilot Andreas Lubitz is almost beyond comprehension. 150 dead, including children and babies; not one body found intact. Horror. One can only pray for the souls of those lost and for the bereaved left behind.

By comparison, the events within travel retail seem utterly unimportant. But in the context of our industry they matter.

In the space of a few days, Shilla of South Korea bought 44% of DFASS (with a call option in five years for another 36%); ex-Nuance boss Roberto Graziani joined the Shilla board, charged with driving its international expansion (no prizes for guessing where the DFASS connection came from; Gebr Heinemann snapped up a 60% stake in Schiphol Group; and, the biggest blockbuster of all, Dufry announced it had entered into a binding control of World Duty Free Group.

That deal had been well-telegraphed by us, by the investor press and by analysts, but it still carried bombshell status. I had been sitting at my screen early on Saturday evening catching up on e-mails when the explosion went off. The sound is still ringing in my ears.

I wrote the following words in a column in the Orlando show (which I attended last week) daily newspaper and events since have only consolidated my view: “Travel retail, so perennially vulnerable to (and sometimes beneficiary of) external events, has always been a market of non-stop evolution. But I believe that mid-way through the second decade of the 21st century, we have reached a period of seminal change.

“That’s being driven by two key factors – sector consolidation and changes in consumer communication (by and to them), the latter driven by the extraordinary pace of development in the social and digital media world.”

More of the latter another time. For now, consolidation is the only story in town. Dufry has written a story that would have been considered far-fetched a decade ago.

Dufry must feel like a blue whale that’s just swallowed a Finback whale (Nuance) and a Right whale (World Duty Free Group) in rapid succession. The digestion process is going to be fascinating. And dolphins should watch out. [Picture: Wikipedia]




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blog weather

After a weekend of glorious Florida sunshine it’s a wet and humid day here in Orlando as the annual Duty Free Show of the Americas swings into action.

I suspect all the talk at the show will revolve around The Shilla Hotel’s acquisition of a 44% stake in DFASS for US$105 million with the option to buy a further 36% stake in five years time. That is some result for Benny Klepach (below), the Miami-based entrepreneur, who has built his company from scratch in 1987 to the world’s leading inflight concessionaire.

blog benny_klepach

Critically, certainly from Shilla’s perspective, DFASS enjoys a range of key distribution agreements with various high-end brand owners for liquor, cosmetics & perfumes and watches.  With Shilla entering the liquor & tobacco space at Incheon International Airport following its recent tender success, expect that relationship to be pivotal to this deal.

Meantime the show kicks off amid what is arguably the most troubled global climate I have seen in 28 years of commentating on this business. With the Russian business in meltdown worldwide (devalued Rouble, Ukraine crisis); the Brazilian Real in freefall (it hit a 12-year low last Thursday; the Japanese Yen trading -20% down against the Dollar; the Chinese government crackdown on corruption and luxury gift giving and – shall I continue? – the growing instability of much of the Middle East and a worryingly large chunk of Africa and you have what one senior brand executive last night described to me as “the perfect storm”.

It is tough out there. Very, very tough. South Korea is one of the few bright lights and today it reflected that light on Miami.

blog Harry and Colm

[With Colm McLoughlin and Harry Diehl on the Hawk's Landing Golf Course]

blog Stork

[The closest I got to a birdie all day]

blog david b smiling

[Former IAADFS President David Bernstein hosted his traditional Friday evening dinner for close friends. It was wonderful to see his wife Pat looking so healthy after recent major surgery.]

blog Loraine, Breeda, Lui Ming


[Three blooming roses: Loraine Motta, Breeda McLoughlin and Lui Ming Chang] 

blog Jose Luis, Colm, Peter S and John G

[José Luis Donagaray, Colm McLoughlin, Peter Sant and John Gallagher at the Opening Cocktail]


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Today is St Patrick’s Day, a day when the Irish celebrate (and just keep on celebrating) all over the world.

It’s also the birthday of Colleen (how well named she was) Morgan (ok then with a Welsh twist), The Moodie Report’s Rhodes-based Special Correspondent and a friend for over four decades.

And, not least, it is the day that one of the very best men in the travel retail community goes under the surgeon’s knife for a long operation that will rid his body of the bully that is cancer. His many, many friends in the industry know who I am talking about. He, a man who stood by me during my own battle with this damned disease, he who will walk through this storm. And he who will never walk alone.

So today I shall raise a glass or two of the dark stuff to all the many great Irishmen and women in travel retail, past and present. I shall also raise one to my Dublin-born Ma (rest in peace Mary Madeline Sophia O’Neill), to our own Irish Colleen and, most of all, to the big man himself.


One Response to “Some special toasts for St Patrick’s Day”

  1. Peter S says:

    hear hear Martin, we will be lighting candles and raising our glasses to the big man, from Singapore with love

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