Groundhog Day in blue blue Hawaii

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

Honolulu International Airport

“Ladies and Gentlemen if I could have your attention please. We now have an answer from our mechanics regarding the aircraft problem. As a result we’re flying in an engine part which will arrive later today. Consequently this flight will not depart until 9.30p.m this evening. Those with onward connections should check with their travel agents.”

After a heavy night, three hours sleep, a 4.15am start on a Sunday and a 7.15a.m scheduled take-off time from Honolulu Airport as part of a 18 hour journey to London, that’s not what you want to hear. The 14 hour delay to my flight would mean missing my connection at Los Angeles and, if I took the flight, a layover in a LAX airport hotel. Either that or postpone for 24 hours and head back to my Waikiki hotel, looking out over white sand and the bluest Pacific waters you ever saw……

What’s a man meant to do?  Or three men in this case?  I had the privilege (and fun) of travelling with Diageo Global Travel & Middle East’s new Managing Director Doug Bagley and Bacardi Global Travel Retail Managing Director Mike Birch, with whom I’d enjoyed a pleasant dinner the night before, following the grand opening of the T Galleria Hawaii by DFS.

Decisions, decisions. LAX airport hotel or Waikiki Beach?

“Taxi!!!!!”

There’s no doubting the impeccable decision-making capabilities of an Aussie, a Kiwi and an Englishman in times of crisis (by the way, both Doug and Mike are refreshingly candid characters, both steeped in the domestic market and both bringing an ebulllient, enthusiastic perception to travel retail. They’ll both be big influences in the trade, I predict).

Back in Waikiki at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel there was time for a cleansing ale or three with my now trusty travel companions, a splendid lunch by the beach joined by a number of other suppliers (pictured below) who were in town for DFS’s big occasion (the unveiling of the T Galleria by DFS brand identity) and finally some sleep that had been delayed for just about as long as my flight.

stranded in Waikiki

[Stranded in Hawaii. It’s hell here…]

On the premise that this (hopefully) would be our final night in Hawaii, the Diageo/Bacardi/Moodie Report troika met up again in Groundhog Day style for another excellent dinner, including some great fish straight from the Pacific and suitable amounts of Seleni Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand to wash it down. Now I began to understand the scepticism from my office when I rang to tell them I was stranded in Waikiki.

I felt I had truly morphed into Bill Murray the next day as my wake-up call, my hangover and my need to get to the airport all blended into a bleary, weary acceptance of my lot.

05_Flatbed_1 - JANUARY

[Martin Moodie in Waikiki]

moodie2_130

[Bill Murray in Groundhog Day]

As I write this Blog from 30,000 feet, a very different slice of Americana looms as the vast urban sprawl of Los Angeles comes into view.  Hopefully my relatively short transit at LAX will allow me time to post this Blog…

Later, from 34,000 feet above the Atlantic….

The Blog will have to be posted in London, thanks to an extensive store check of the DFS store at Tom Bradley International (Note: this is not the new TBIT West terminal store unveiled to great acclaim earlier this year – and due to open formally on September 18 – which may have been inferred from my original Blog).

It’s a good but not great store in my view. There are some nice touches in the liquor section (but also some flat spots as the pictures below indicate). And while there are plenty of fans of Remy Martin Louis XIII, I don’t think the particular fan pictured below does much for the overall ambience. The white flooring too is showing its age.

rsz_remy_fan

Some of the top-end spirits (Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Louis XIII and Hennessy, in particular) were shown off in style, however, as was Jack Daniel’s.

Louis xiii

jw blue 2

And there was an interesting new contender in the white spirits sector – 1911 vodka and gin, distilled from apples, gluten-free and produced by Beak & Skiff.

1911 vodka

Who, you may ask, is Beak & Skiff? Well, the DFS connection is a clue. The company is owned by the Brennan family, as in Ed Brennan, former Chairman and CEO of DFS and still a board member. His son Steve is driving the project and from what I’ve seen of the presentation (including a neck label proclaiming 1911 vodka’s gold medal at a recent major spirits competition) and tasted of the supremely high-quality juice (I bought a bottle and I am sipping it as I write), it’s got every chance of being a major winner on every level.

1911

The mid-store section, dedicated to fashion, is notable for its lovely Hermès area and there’s plenty of class across what is obviously not the easiest space to work with. Definitely one of the better US duty free shops but a tweak or two would make all the difference. The new store (viewed by Deputy Chairman Dermot Davitt earlier this year) promises to provide that and much more.

tx2

T

store

As for the Hawaiian gathering, DFS got it just right – off to a T you might say. It’s a lovely simple concept and a nice way to differentiate the downtown offering from that at DFS’s airport locations. And who else, other than DFS, could have had the whole inner-city streets of Waikiki closed off for the grand celebration (above)?

Moreover, the DFS Galleria in Waikiki was the perfect launch venue.

the crowd

T at night

olivier bt

stevec

 [Top: Olivier Bottrie, President of The Estée Lauder Companies Travel Retailing Worldwide, and below, Steve Corrigan, William Grant & Sons North America Travel Retail Director, enter into the spirit of the occasion]

David Charles (below) and his team have done an immense job. I was wowed by the store when I attended DFS Hawaii’s 50th birthday celebrations in 2012 and I was even more wowed this time. I like to avoid hype but I think this is great retail. Department by department. Brand by brand. With a customer service ethic that’s nigh unbeatable.

David Charles

When I see the various industry awards handed out (notably for best downtown store), I feel it is a simple nonsense that outlets such as this are not in the running (because they, understandably, decline to nominate themselves). There must, therefore, be a better way to judge industry excellence. This store, T Galleria Hawaii by DFS, is simply right up there among the best retail stores (let alone travel retail) in the world. And every one of the many suppliers I spoke to over the last few days agreed.

I’ll bring you more on the T Galleria story in our e-Zine this week and our Cannes print edition. But I’m against the clock (and a fair bit of jet lag) for now. First, I’ve got to head back to my second home of London Heathrow tomorrow for a flight to Rome for a big opening by Aelia, and then I’m off to Dubai on Friday to interview Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the President of the Department of Civil Aviation and Chairman of the Emirates Group. He’s an amazing man who has lent incredible levels of support to Dubai Duty Free in its great rise and rise of the past 30 years (the subject of the book I am authoring to be published in October).

It’s a tough old schedule and I’m completing this Blog in London with matchsticks holding my eyes open. But would I give it up for any other life? Would I heck…

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