A tale like no other in travel retail

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

What a brilliant day here in Taiwan. This morning, accompanied by Ever Rich Vice Chairman Kevin Chiang, and two of his managers, Allen Yu and Claire Ma, I took the drive to Yilan county, about an hour’s drive from Taipei.

There Ever Rich has bought a huge parcel of land near the seafront, where it will develop two hotels (one four star, catering for Chinese travellers, and one five star) supported by shopping, entertainment and cultural facilities.

Yilan looks out to the Pacific Ocean, with mountains on the three other sides forming a unique and beautiful landscape.  The county is home to Asia’s second longest highway tunnel, the Hsuehshan Tunnel (nearly 13k), an incredible feat of engineering bored through a mountain range, through which we drove today.

It is also home to cold and hot springs, and the famed Sacred Trees Garden –  housing 100 indigenous trees over a millennium old, including Formosan red false cypresses and Taiwan hinoki false cypresses. Each tree, I learned, is named after a famous person contemporary to the planting of the tree.

Just off the coast is Guishan (Turtle Mountain) Island (pictured), a Pacific Ocean haven for whales and dolphins. There is so much to see here – and in this country in general – that I vowed to return when I have more time next year.

From Yilan it was a rush drive back to Taipei, and the new Ever Rich Duty Free Plaza in Neihu, Taipei, where for once I was the one being asked the questions. The occasion was an interview with Jinny Chang, News Anchor at Formosa TV, which is being aired tonight.

Jinny wanted a global perspective on the travel retail business and for me to put the local tourism and travel retail sectors in an international perspective. It was my pleasure to do so, and I talked about the impressive steps that Taoyuan International Airport and its retailers have taken to develop a world-class shopping and food & beverage offer, supported by outstanding themed gate lounges and public service areas that reflect different aspects of Taiwan’s culture, commerce, tastes and tradition. There is no airport like it in the world.

Next up it was me in more familiar role as I interviewed Jack Wu, Simon Chiang’s partner in Ever Rich DFS since its inception (and in fact a business partner for 30 years).

As I pressed him for the reasons behind the company’s success, he emphasised time and again how the company’s commitment to society, to its employees and to the country mattered more than any profit motive. “Giving back to our community is the main driver of our business,” he said with absolute conviction.

He spoke with great humility and passion, delivering an often poignant insight into the company’s remarkable rise in recent years to become one of the world’s top ten travel retailers.

Jack described how even during the desperate days of SARS when the airports and stores were deserted, Ever Rich never laid off any staff or returned the goods of local producers.

Despite eating part of what may be the biggest crab I have ever seen (pictured), I now have a dinner to go to so I’ll save the rest for our book ‘Ever Rich at 18’ which publishes in February next year to celebrate the company’s 18th anniversary. I can promise you it’s one heck of a story, a tale like no other in travel retail.

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