Crisis, what crisis? How Dermot delivered when needed most

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

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Meet Dermot Davitt.

Many of you already have.

Dermot (above left) has worked alongside me for 20 years, first at Duty-Free News International (where he started as a graduate trainee) and since 2006 at The Moodie Report. When I bought back the company last year he became my fellow shareholder, for the first time having “skin in the game” as well as an executive presence.

As I have noted before in this Blog, Dermot is the ultimate comrade-in-arms. He has an immense work ethic, an unflappable calm and a loyalty that is immeasurable.

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[Dermot and I: comrades-in-arms]

I’ve given him some tough gigs in recent years, notably the need to run the company and all its products in 2010 as I struggled through stomach cancer.  That year he edited a DFS 50th anniversary corporate book through the night during the Cannes show while fulfilling all his day and evening responsibilities, maintaining our web coverage, leading our team and coping brilliantly with a multitude of pressures that would have made lesser people snap.

Over the past two weeks he’s been stuck with another tough gig, again down to my health issues, I’m afraid. My recent heart attack and need for bypass surgery came just as I was about to head to South Korea for a major presentation at the National Assembly (Parliament). There on 2 February, a key duty free retailing policy seminar was scheduled, the critical subject matter being a potential review of the five-year downtown duty free licensing scheme introduced in 2013. That system had led to the hugely controversial loss of the Lotte Duty Free World Tower and WalkerHill Duty Free licences in Seoul late last year.

The seminar was due to be attended by policy makers, Korea Customs officials, influential academics, The Korea Tourism Association and Korea Association of Travel Agents  and national media, plus The Moodie Report representing the international travel retail community.

I have been visiting Korea multiple times each year since 1989 and care deeply about its travel retail industry. I am proud of the respect in which we are held there. Our voice was an important one for a sector under legislative attack. Quite simply we had to be there.

“Dermot I need something big from you. I need you go to Korea next week.” I was speaking from my hospital bed days before the emergency surgery.

Dermot might have complained; might have said that going into such a critical public meeting was a bridge too far when he was also being asked to run the whole company on top of his onerous day job. He might have said that he felt exposed delivering such an address and handling all the inevitable media interviews that would surround it, given that Korea was not a market he knew well. He might have mentioned family pressures and his daughter’s birthday that would take place while he was away.

He did nothing of the sort of course. “No worries,” was his instant reply. Dermot duly flew out to Seoul, and delivered an outstanding address on Tuesday, as well as conducting a series of high-level interviews with Korean media and, today, The Wall Street Journal.

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There is real belief now in Korea travel retail circles that this nonsensical piece of regulation can be amended. I’m proud of The Moodie Report’s role in that progress. But I’m even prouder of a certain Dermot Davitt, our man for all seasons and a quiet, understated but huge human asset to the travel retail industry.

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