Marching on into another year

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

Dear March, come in!
How glad I am!
I looked for you before.
Put down your hat —
You must have walked —
How out of breath you are!
– To March, Emily Dickinson

March 1.

In the blink of an eye, we’re already a sixth of the way through 2023. Before you know it we’ll be singing Auld Lang Syne again. Why is it that the years seem to go faster as one gets older? I am pondering this question with worrying frequency these days, particular on this day, given that it marks several (well, quite a lot of) decades plus seven years since I burst onto the scene in the sleepy suburb of Burwood, Christchurch in my native New Zealand.

About to board my Discovery Bay to Central Interim Bureau

Yes, it’s my birthday and at a time when I probably should be reaching for my golf clubs and/or slippers, I am instead typing furiously inside my delightfully scenic Interim Marine Bureau onboard a ferry from Central to Discovery Bay, Hong Kong.

I am en route for a breakfast catch-up with Lee Charn Cheng, known universally as CC Lee,  an immense contributor to the travel retail community over more than three decades. CC spent 26 years with DFS, serving as Managing Director of Singapore and subsequently Managing Director for Australia.

He left the company to join Valiram Group as Country Manager for Singapore before being hired by Lagardère Travel Retail CEO for Singapore and Malaysia. In 2016 he was named Chief Operating Officer for China Duty Free Group and he has been doing an outstanding job for the world number one travel retailer ever since.

My boss – ‘the website that never sleeps’ – is a fierce taskmaster and is insisting I put in a decent shift today before allowing me some time off for good behaviour (and some nice vino at our local Italian) this evening. The local fire brigade may need to be on standby given the number of candles required for the cake.

March 1 is, of course, also Saint David’s Day, honouring the Patron Saint of Wales. I like the overlap with my birthday, given that I have a beautiful set of Welsh-Kiwi grandchildren, Carys (2) and Iwan (two months) living in the bustling South Wales metropolis of Ystradgynlais (‘Vale of the river Cynlais’), now the administrative headquarters of The Moodie Davitt Report.

Just like those designer bags that declare ‘Paris – Rome – London – New York’, I am pondering a new company branding to celebrate our 21st anniversary, featuring a logo that proclaims  Ystradgynlais – Galway – Brentford – Discovery Bay. It’s got a certain finesse, you must admit.

Time for a long overdue catch-up with CC Lee over breakfast at Coffee Academics in Wanchai

On St David’s Day I always remember Alan Edwards, that proud Welshman and travel retail veteran who so sadly passed a few years back while working with Aer Rianta International and Qatar Duty Free in Doha. Alan was one of my best friends (as he was to many) and an important influence in my career.

Alan Edwards with me at the old Doha International Airport in 2012

March 1 is notable for other reasons. In the Republic of Korea – my wife Yu Lim’s birthplace – it is a particularly important occasion, Independence Movement Day. It honours one of the earliest public displays of Korean resistance against the Japanese occupation (1910-1945). It took place on March 1, 1919 and was dubbed ‘Samil Jeol’ – Three-One Movement, or March First Movement.

An estimated two million people attended peaceful demonstrations to protest the occupation, though the day was to turn tragically non-peaceful with some 7,500 Koreans killed, 16,000 wounded and 46,000 arrested. Independence Movement Day became a national commemoration day in 1946 – a year after Korea regained independence.

Given that travel retail is an international community which by its very definition stands for diversity and inclusion, I should note also that March 1 is both International Women of Color Day and Zero Discrimination Day, important affirmations and reminders that our world is not remotely as equal as it should be.

Staying with travel retail commonalities, it is also Share a Smile Day and Stop Bad Service Day, the former surely the best way  to counter the latter.

It may not be an official March 1 day, but the date will also go down in local history as the moment from when masks were no longer compulsory attire in most social places and situations within Hong Kong. While I prefer to still wear mine, a quick glance around my fellow passengers suggests that I am in a very small minority.

And so, as my ferry nears Central Pier 3 and given the alarming number of miles on my own clock, I should perhaps defiantly state that today is also Refired not Retired Day. I’ll raise a glass to that in the knowledge that the website that never sleeps requires me to March on a little longer yet.

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