Better in Basel (and no Bert’s Blues) as Dufry delivers the goods

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

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I’m at EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse, on my way back from a court case in Boudry, near beautiful Neuchatel and I am as impressed by the transformation here as I was by the view from the lovely Alpes et Lac Hotel in Neuchatel (pictured above and below).

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Last time (June 2015) I wrote a review about Dufry’s (then very tired) shopping offer at EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg I received a very indignant response from a reader called Michel saying, “I feel you do not have retail experience or you should spend more time to analyse before to comment.”

Maybe he was right. No doubt Michel was/is a Dufry or airport employee. I understood and in fact sympathised with his sentiments (none of us like to be criticised) but didn’t, after much reflection, agree with them. Mine was a consumer’s perspective after all, albeit I hope an informed, understanding and fair perspective. Consumers don’t generally have retail experience but their viewpoint is surely the most important of all. And anyway, what I wrote was not that harsh.

This is what I said: The Dufry ‘walk-through’ store is a disappointment. The main shop is cluttered and generally unenticing. Definitely not the Swiss giant at its best; the saving grace being the Lindt display in the centre of the shop complete with live chocolate making.

Switzerland has some great destination products and there’s no excuse for a shop of a reasonable scale such as this not to show it off via more than a single promotion. How about talking those Swiss wines and spirits up, for example, not just sitting them on a floor unit [pictured below]? The walk-through is in fact a very unsubtle, forced ‘push-through’ and I noticed many passengers, no doubt regular travellers, sparing themselves the walk by taking the shorter cabin crew and staff detour.

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[That was then… Dufry, EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse, June 2015]

I stick by those comments. But if you’re going to criticise when things go badly, you also need to praise when they go well. And boy, have things started to go well. The transformation over the past year is startling.

After one exits security (passing by the fashion and accessories stores (still, strangely in their old Dufry livery as are the shopping bags. Surely if you are going to change branding as visibly as Dufry did last year you should fully and immediately embrace it in your heartland?) one comes to the new-look walk-through duty free shop (designed by UK firm The Design Solution).

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The main duty free store (below), however, has been revamped (complete with new branding) almost beyond recognition. Where before it was cramped, untidy, uninspired, it is now bright, spacious and elegantly merchandised.

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[This is now… Dufry, EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse, June 2015]

There are clearly some finishing touches left to be made (more of that in a moment) but this is a step change from a year ago. And remember my comments on the lack of a quality destination merchandise offer? Well look at these pictures below. They tell their own story.

I really liked the nicely presented, diverse and fulsome array of Swiss and Alsation wines and spirits. And just to prove it, I put my money where my mouth is by buying a nice bottle of Dole Des Monts red wine from Robert Gilliard. At €22 it wasn’t cheap but – and here’s the point – it looks as though it is part of a well thought-out, well-presented wine offer. That gives me faith in the wine buyer and therefore in the quality and price of the wine.

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When I paid at the central check-out area, I chatted to Sebahat, a delightful sales assistant from Turkey who told me how proud she was to work in such an improved, pleasant store. She was charming, helpful and professional too. The new-look store opened just three weeks ago, she said, and some last-minute flourishes are still being added. But boy is it a step change.

Bravo Dufry. And bravo Michel for caring – if you’re reading this, I hope you consider my comments (past and present) well-intentioned and that in an admittedly different way from you, I do understand retail and I do appreciate the transformation. If criticism is constructive rather than cheap, it really does serves a purpose.

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Footnote (1): I was also a bit harsh on my last visit about Bert’s, an airside coffee and snacks outlet. I didn’t say it was bad, just drab. It served (and still does) a purpose. But this time around it was brighter; the food on display looked fresh and the place was (deservedly) packed. A very good grab and go or casual food/coffee bar/quick service offer, in fact.

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Footnote (2): What an excellent lounge (below) EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse boasts. Elegant, relaxed, lovely wines on offer (Alsatian… I am currently supping on a superb Pinot Blanc), light and bright with beautiful views of the airport and the countryside beyond. A delight.

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  • Couldn’t agree with you more Martin, can not begin to count the number of times I left Switzerland knowing full well that there were no Swiss wines of interest to be bought in the airport so mades sure to buy them in advance and stuffing them in my suitcase This is great news, therefore!