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Dubai Duty Free has won so many awards and other accolades down the years that it’s perhaps easy to gloss over them.

But that would be a mistake. For underneath the sales achievements and the often brilliant marketing and consumer campaigns, lies a tale of extraordinary brand development and a retailer that stands for much more than simply selling duty free products.

When Dubai Duty Free was named this week as Generation’s number one travel retailer for 2009 (by individual airport location), it represented an emphatic confirmation of the professionalism of a travel retailer that beat the recessionary blues to post record sales of US$1.14 billion in sales – amid the worst external (and industry) conditions in travel retail’s history.

But I prefer to look beyond those top-line numbers. Which travel retailer is always at the front of the queue when it comes to supporting major industry (and non-industry) charity initiatives, such as The Smile Train campaign, The Stuart Mangan Trust, Sri Lanka’s Travel Retail Village or Hand in Hand for Haiti? Yes, Dubai Duty Free.

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Which travel retailer always goes beyond the call of duty free in ensuring fair, equitable and above market norms wages and conditions for its staff? Dubai Duty Free.

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[Samson from Kerala, India, poses by a 25th anniversary sign bearing the pictures of all 3,700 Dubai Duty Free employees]

Which travel retailer has done more than any other to enhance the reputation of the whole duty free concept with the travelling public? Dubai Duty Free.

Which travel retailer has been run by a charismatic individual throughout its history, one (Colm McLoughlin) who has become synonymous with the channel and a revered statesman within it? Dubai Duty Free.

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And which travel retailer has built and nurtured a brand with unwavering, consummate skill and dedication since its start-up just over a quarter of a century ago? Dubai Duty Free.

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One could throw in a whole host of other indicators, not usually considered in bald, financial assessments of industry rankings, to measure the true greatness of this company. It’s been some story and, as underlined by last year’s results and charitable initiatives, it has many more chapters to be written.

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