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Unbelievable. But very, very real.
I’m talking about Dubai Duty Free’s daily sales on 20 December 2008 – the retailer’s 25th anniversary. On the same day a year earlier the retailer posted a remarkable +56% year-on-year increase in sales to AED46,211,743.74 (around US$12.6 million at the exchange rate of the time) while celebrating its 24th anniversary.
Since then though the climate has changed immensely. The world has fallen into the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, traffic growth at Dubai Duty Free has slowed, and the slump in the Pound Sterling has hit spending by British travellers – a key sector at Dubai International Airport.
How would travellers react in 2008? On the plus side there was the added space, sophistication and product range of the new Terminal 3, opened earlier this year. And, of course, a -25% discount on a wide range of items (a percentage point for every year of trading) was sure to prove a big lure.
The answer was revealed just after midnight, as Dubai Duty Free’s senior management sat around the dinner table, reflecting on a long day over a final glass of Champagne – AED70,990,054.17 (nearly US$20 million), +54% higher than the former record.
The Moodie Report was inundated with interest in our competition with Dubai Duty Free to project the anniversary day turnover. Easily our most successful competition ever, it drew nearly 200 entries, all trying to win a ticket in Dubai Duty Free’s Multi Millionaire draw, with an ultimate chance to win US$5 million.
Almost all of the entries were in the AED50-65 mllion range, though the lowest was AED35 million and the highest AED78.8 million. Very, very few industry experts, even those with close knowledge of Dubai Duty Free, got anywhere near the final amount. That is how stunning this achievement was.
Clearly the T3 factor helped; so did the lure of the -25%. But we think a major driver was the carnival-like atmosphere on the shop floor, generated by great promotional activity, boundless staff enthusiasm, the launch of the retailer’s anniversary song ‘Fly Buy Dubai’ and the company’s sheer collective willpower to shatter previous records.
I can tell you though that the performance even surprised Dubai Duty Free’s senior management. I know because I was there – ’embedded’ in the retail operation throughout much of the day. They had hoped for 60 million Dirhams but 70 million? Highly unlikely.
The story has wider importance than simply the tale of a single day’s record sales. As one leading brand company executive wrote to us afterwards: “I think your excellent Dubai Duty Free story should be picked up by Reuters and Associated Press and help turn around the doom and gloom we keep hearing non-stop.”
There are, indeed, lessons here. 20 December 2008 was a tale of belief, commitment and desire. Throw in knowledge of the consumer, promotional exhuberance, marketing savvy and the right product offer, and you start to realise how the impossible really happened.