Finding a new companion for (travel retail) life

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

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As I write my final Blog of 2017 in London, it’ll soon be turning 2018 in my native land, New Zealand. On this day, 31 December 1984, my first child, Sinead, was born in Christchurch. I had never contemplated the prospect of living abroad (and certainly not in what I considered the frozen north of England); the term travel retail meant nothing to me; and the words duty free probably just conjured up the fact that it was time to enjoy my holidays in the baking warmth of a New Zealand Christmas.

33 years on, a comparative blink of an eye-lid in relation to the eternal march of time, I find myself reflecting on another year in life, another year in travel retail, another year of running one’s own business in a country one calls but never really considers home.

We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to now
And tried to reach beyond the emptiness
But neither one knew how

We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to time
Reliving in our eloquence
Another ‘auld lang syne’

The words of American singer songwriter Dan Fogelberg (1951-2007) splendidly capture the nostalgia of this day, this ‘eve’ of a new year and all that it might hold. So does the original, of course, a poem by the great Scottish bard Robbie Burns set to a traditional air. I’m willing to wager very good money that not a single reader (naw, not even Brian Collie, who has quoted many a good Scots line back at me down the years) knows all the lyrics. Heck, I’d be surprised if more than a handful know the second verse. Pity really, as there are some great words – and sentiments – in the subsequent lines. I’ll quote the original Scottish words rather than the modern translations.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne.


For auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.


We twa hae run about the braes
And pu’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary foot
Sin auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,
Frae mornin’ sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right guid willy waught,
For auld lang syne.


Lovely, isn’t it? I particularly like the lines ‘We twa hae run about the braes/
And pu’d the gowans fine/But we’ve wander’d mony a weary foot, Sin auld lang syne (‘We two have run about the hills/And pulled the daisies fine/But we’ve wandered manys the weary foot/Since long, long ago).

Better to be pulling the daisies of course than pushing them up (something I’ve come perilously close to doing twice in recent years). And how about this? ‘We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn/Frae mornin’ sun till dine/But seas between us braid hae roar’d/Sin auld lang syne.’ (We two have paddled in the stream/From morning sun till dine/But seas between us broad have roared/Since long, long ago).

Sublimely melancholic nostalgia.

I can already picture myself roaring out those lines in a Kiwi-Scottish accent later this evening after a few glasses of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc washed down with a large dram or two of good Speyside single malt. Impossibly poignant words even if my rendition of them may attract different adjectives.

Ten minutes until the New Year in New Zealand and indeed the seas between us ‘broad have roared’ over the past 33 years. So, a good moment perhaps to close my final Blog of a fascinating 2017 in my life, in my company’s 15-year journey and in travel retail.

New Year’s Eve is a traditional time to remember those who have contributed to your journey, and I’ll finish by saying thanks to two of them. One is M&M’s, which has been the sponsor of this Blog since its inception in September 2006 but today passes the baton to Swiss company Victorinox, creator of the original Swiss Army Knife, of course, but now known for a whole range of brilliant travel-related and other accessories.

I love their ‘Companion for life’ tagline, which hints at both the durability and indispensability of their most famous product.

M&M’s original sponsorship came courtesy of Stuart Bull, the company’s long-term travel retail consultant, who did so much to grow the business in this channel (something we recognised with a Lifetime Contribution to Travel Retail award at the recent Trinity Forum).

Apt recognition of Stuart Bull’s amazing industry achievements at the recent Trinity Forum

Stuart liked the concept of the Blog and has remained a great supporter and reader of it, even after he left the company. He’s taking full retirement at the end of this year (so that’s 13 hours from now) and never was one more well-deserved. Stuart has battled an old foe of mine over recent years and he’s battling it again as I write. He’ll beat it again, he vows. I have no doubt of it, having learned years ago that when Stuart vowed something he meant it.

Thank you Stuart, thank you M&M’s (and Mars International Travel Retail) for your great support down the years. Welcome Victorinox (through) Director Global Travel Retail & Duty Free Thomas Bodenmann and thank you for your belief in The Moodie Blog. We’ll try to remain your companion for travel retail life (and suitably cutting edge at that) throughout 2018.

And one more person to acknowledge and thank. Doug Newhouse, the long-time editor of Travel Retail Business, assures me that today is his last day with the title he founded 20 years ago.

Doug (right) with Martin Moodie (left) and mutual friend Rakhita Jayawardena at TFWA World Exhibition in 2011

Doug and I go back much further than that, though. 2017 marked my 30th year writing about the travel retail industry. In the summer of 1987, fresh off the plane from New Zealand, I accepted a six-month contract at US drinks title Impact International to help prepare their special edition for that year’s Tax Free World Exhibition (as it was then called). A certain Mr Newhouse had left the company to join a start-up called Duty-Free News International and I was tasked with filling his considerable shoes.

I stayed at Impact International till early 1989 before that same Doug Newhouse esquire called me one day and said that he and his bosses Vivian Raven (Rest in Peace) and Julian Fox would like me to join them at the fledgling specialist title. I duly jumped ship – a bit like leaping from an aircraft carrier to a rubber dinghy in those days – in the spring of 1989. However, my new ship flourished, becoming something of a superliner market leader through the 1990s and very much defining both my journalistic career and values. The lessons I learned, many of them from Doug, would prove crucial when I made the fateful decision in early 2002 to go out on my own with a digitally led publication.

Turning the tables: I interviewed Doug for the inaugural issue of The Moodie Report (as it was called then) Print Edition back in 2003

Six years ago I wrote on this Blog, “Doug is our toughest, most serious and most respected rival, a journalist who gives his all, a man with a work ethic that is extraordinary by anybody’s standards. He is passionate and knowledgeable about the business in equal measure. He drives himself harder than just about anyone I know.”

Those words ring as true now as they did then. He redefined travel retail journalism, sourcing original stories in a way that many of today’s generation of reporters, weaned on google alerts and using other journalists’ stories as their idea of lead-sourcing, wouldn’t be capable of.

I note, for example, that Doug has already posted three stories online today, which, to remind you, is Sunday, New Year’s Eve. Who to battle daily now? Who to curse when beaten to a story? Who to force me to rise each morning in the wee small hours to ensure I can match him? Who to keep me and us honest?

Aye Doug, ‘And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!/And gie’s a hand o’ thine!/And we’ll tak a right guid willy waught/For auld lang syne.’ (And there’s a hand, my trusty friend!/And give us a hand of yours!/And we’ll take a deep draught of good-will/For long, long ago).

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