Dubai Duty Free defies the downturn

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

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‘Dubai Duty Free hits record sales high in 2009’ – it’s a headline that many readers would have considered inconceivable earlier this year as the world’s leading travel retail operation experienced an unprecedented series of year-on-year monthly sales declines.

Hit by a triple whammy of global recession, an ailing and debt-burdened local economy and the collapse of the Pound Sterling (affecting British travellers), Dubai Duty Free for once fell off the relentless upward curve that it has maintained with remarkable consistency since it began operations in 1983.

But while the prophets of doom – most of them in the UK – basked in a sense of schadenfreude about Dubai’s problems, the retailer simply got on with business, bouncing back from five consecutive months of year-on-year sales declines to close out the year in style from June onwards with seven months of growth.


[Pictured: Dubai Duty Free senior management and staff gather for the cutting of the retailer’s 26th anniversary cake on 20 December]

The reasons for the retailer’s success are numerous. It was boosted by passenger traffic growth, largely in the wake of Emirates Airlines’ ambitious global expansion, but it also continued to do the simple things right – putting the right mix of products in front of a diverse passenger profile. Simultaneously it always emphasised value and came up with a host of engaging consumer promotions.

Those – and there are many – who say that Dubai Duty Free has it easy due to its government affiliations, might finally like to reconsider that view in the wake of an outstanding 2009 performance that occurred in the most difficult of circumstances.

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  • Hi Martin, it is great to see a very positive story at the beginning of this new decade. Loved also the way you used the word schadenfreude…..
    Happy New Year, Klaus