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Ever since I launched The Moodie Report in 2002 I have come to hugely admire the entrepreneurs within this industry, people who have had the vision, the acumen and the sheer guts to launch and grow a business.
As anyone who has steered this path will tell you, it ain’t easy. If it was, as the saying goes, everyone would do it. There are financial pressures aplenty and as a company grows, the owner also has responsibility for the lives (and mortgages) of his or her employees.
When times get rough and issues become awkward, there is no place to hide. It’s no wonder that so many new businesses (eight out of ten according to a recent Canadian study) fail in the first three years.
One entrepreneur who has succeeded in spectacular fashion in the travel retail industry is Bruce McGuire. In 1971 Bruce founded Clifford Enterprises, a distributor of watches and gift items, which grew into a hugely influential, profitable and respected business over many years, until he eventually sold it to Ronson.
Bruce was – and is – a walking, talking, charismatic and ebullient ambassador for the watches industry. Among his many success stories was Montine, a brand he launched in 1971 and which became a phenomenal bestseller inflight, selling over half a million units per year during the 1980s. This prompted the Montine advertising slogan – ‘one sold every minute around the world’.
Bruce was also a key inspiration behind the creation of Scorpio Distributors, the UK-based distribution business owned and run by his son Stuart, also with great success. Scorpio (in which Gebr Heinemann is now a partner) offers a sales, marketing and distribution service to over 200 airlines, most major travel retailers, ferries and cruise liners. Talk to just about anyone in the business and they will tell you that Scorpio is a byword for excellence.
While still active in the business, Bruce is now taking it a little easier, as he deserves to do after so many years of service to travel retail. He’s honing his more than useful golf game, a sport he has embraced to the benefit of countless charities down the years, which have benefited from his generosity at many events.
I have been to numerous industry charity balls down the years and, without fail, one of the first hands ever to be raised in an auction is Bruce’s. He must have bought many things down the years that he didn’t need, simply because he wanted to help. He’s that sort of man. Kind, cheeky, lovable.
His wife, Jill, is an extraordinarily gentle and lovely woman, her personality matched perfectly by her pure, beautiful soprano voice. Many an industry occasion, notably in Cannes, has been enhanced by one of Jill’s renditions of her favourite opera songs from Verdi, Puccini and others.
So it was with immense pleasure that the three McGuires were invited as guests of honour to The Moodie Report annual staff Christmas party in London this week.
There, much to his surprise and delight, we presented Bruce with a special award for his services to travel retail.
It read: “To a great entrepreneur, role model and industry servant. In recognition of an outstanding contribution to the travel retail community.
Presented to Bruce McGuire by The Moodie Report, 12 December 2011.
[Stuart, Jill and Bruce McGuire with Martin Moodie]
The moment was capped poignantly by Jill’s lovely rendition of Puccini’s O mio babbino caro. The title will not have been lost on Stuart McGuire. It translates as ‘Oh my beautiful father’. Never was a song more appropriate.