Avoiding the perfect storm

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

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Just when it all seems to be going wrong, it all goes right.

Airport construction delays, the now all-too familiar LAGs restrictions, a sharp decline in passenger numbers driven by the country’s pull-out from an important regional carrier (Gulf Air) and even – yes, you read it right – a Middle East cyclone.

It all looks like the ‘perfect storm’ for a collapse in duty free sales, right? Wrong. Muscat Duty Free has defied all the aforesaid conditions – what it describes as the most volatile period in its history – to turn in a stellar performance that has seen retail sales rise by +14.5% for the year to date.

You won’t see Muscat Duty Free profiled regularly in the trade media. Nor will you hear the company’s executives, such as General Manager Steve O’Connor, trumpet their achievements.

But make no mistake, this is an impressive, adroit and ambitious retail operation. Muscat Duty Free’s website, for example, headed off all its illustrious regional peers in the inaugural Travel Retail Website of the Year Awards run by The Moodie Report last year. Take a look – www.MuscatDutyFree.com – and you’ll see why.

It’s a no-nonsense website, with all the ingredients that we think are crucial in a good travel retail web offer – products, pricing, promotions – and all done with the emphasis on consumer accessibility rather than technical triumphalism, the bane of so many retail sites.

The Moodie Report wasn’t alone in singling out Muscat Duty Free from its peers – so did confectionery powerhouse Mars International Travel Retail when it named the company Gulf Confectionery Travel Retailer of the Year for 2006 (Steve O’Connor is pictured accepting the award from Mars International Travel Retail Consultant Stuart Bull at the Trinity Forum this year in Dubai).

Given how much confectionery the likes of Dubai Duty Free, Abu Dhabi Duty Free and Bahrain Duty Free sell, that’s some achievement. But this is some retailer. So put Muscat and Oman on your travel schedule next time you’re headed to the Middle East. You’ll discover a beautiful city and country, a wonderful multi-layered culture and one of the world’s most innovative travel retailers.

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