June. Almost half the year gone. How did that happen? This year has rushed by with almost indecent speed, almost every second week spent partly on the road.
This week’s road has taken me to Moscow, from where it’s on to Paris mid-week. I’m visiting Vnukovo International Airport later this morning, where the retail and food & beverage offer has been transformed in recent times and more developments are afoot.
I’m catching up with the Founder and Chairman Alexander Baev and Commercial Director Vadim Sagiev at Dufry-controlled RegStaer later today, always a great pleasure since I first met them in their pre-Dufry days in June 2008. Eleven years ago. Once again, where did all the time go?
Arriving at Sheremetyevo Airport Terminal D also allowed me the opportunity to see the new arrivals shops opened earlier this year by the Gebr Heinemann partnership Sheremetyevo Duty Free. The stores are smart, as you would expect, and it will be interesting to watch their sales evolution as the arrivals shopping concept takes hold in the Russian consumer pysche.
Moscow in June is a very different proposition from in mid-December, when I was last here for RegStaer’s 20th anniversary celebrations. Then it was -10 below; this week it’s expected to touch 30° as the Russian capital basks in sunshine.
As always while on the road, I’m juggling a zillion emails and numerous breaking stories from around the world. Last week was a doozy in news terms with Changi Airport Group revealing that it will launch a tender for its duty free liquor & tobacco concession this month after DFS declined to take up its previously agreed (in December 2018) two-year extension in the face of onerous financial conditions.
A big contributor to that decision must have been the Singapore government’s shock announcement in February that it was slashing the duty free alcohol allowance for returning travellers from three to two litres – a body blow to the key arrivals liquor business. Once again we see how vulnerable our sector is to legislative change.
The other big news of the week, broken by The Moodie Davitt Report ahead of all local and international media both mainstream and B2B, was King Power International’s triumph in the Suvarnabhumi Airport duty free bid in Bangkok. Not surprisingly, that was one of our best-read stories of recent times, as readers around the world clicked through to live on-location news and photos from the Airports of Thailand announcement.
The Srivaddhanaprabha family-held business has faced some extraordinary challenges since its Suvarnabhumi tenancy began when the airport opened in September 2006 – none greater, of course, than the tragic death of company Founder and Chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in a helicopter crash last October.
This tender victory, in the face of intense local and international competition and much media controversy, will have tasted particularly sweet for the Srivaddhanaprabha family, particularly his son Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha who now leads the company. “I will not let my father down,” were his poignant words to me after I congratulated him on the company’s success.
And, of course, we topped the week off with Saturday’s video tribute to Colm McLoughlin, the great statesman of the international travel retail industry. That day, 1 June, marked Colm’s 50th year in duty free, an extraordinary achievement not just in terms of longevity but also in depth of achievement.
As always, I’ve got a bit of catching up to do with Colm. Next month I will have spent 32 years in this business since arriving from my native New Zealand to the UK barely knowing what a duty free store looked like. If I reach 50 years in the sector, that will make me 81 (which may mean that I still won’t know what a duty free store looks like…)
I’ve now spent more years in the UK (or at 35,000 feet) than I did in my homeland. But time, I assure you, has done nothing to dull my Kiwi pride and patriotism, to which the touch paper is about to be relit in the countdown to the Rugby World Cup, which begins in Japan in September. That might seem months away, but judging by the speed with which this year is rushing by, I can practically hear the opening whistle.