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My sojourn around the wine departments of the world’s airport shops continued in contrasting style last week as I journeyed respectively through Phuket International and Dubai International airports.
In some ways any comparison is unfair because Phuket International handled (a record) 9.5 million arrivals in 2012 whereas Dubai International handled nearly 58 million. In scope, scale, investment levels and passenger profile they are very different propositions.
But as many smaller airports (Christchurch in New Zealand springs to mind) have proven, size is not everything. Smaller airports can and should have a top-class commercial offer, albeit one tailored to their space constraints and traveller numbers and profile.
Phuket is, to say the least, a mixed bag. Its Departures duty free shop, run by King Power International Group, is spacious, neat, well-ranged and of the international quality you would expect. But the other outlets, particularly food & beverage, could do with a drastic overhaul.
Retailers and brands often talk of the vital importance of ‘adjacencies’. Many luxury houses, for example, decide on whether to support a location as much by the quality of their neighbours as the quality and extent of the space offered.
So take a look at these two ‘internal adjacencies’. The first is called Smoking & Café, which may have seemed a natural combination a decade or so back (or if you’re a 100 a day smoker), but is now surely not the most tantalising way to attract the hungry traveller (the smoking area is through a thin door at the back of the Café). Beware the smoked salmon sandwiches I say.
The second (note: not run by King Power) is called Phuket Wine Lover and, if you can bear to look, it warrants a close examination.
One side of the store (above) sells a range of Thai herbal wines, Thai rum and whiskies, together with an array of soft drinks and other items. So far so good. But the other side offers cigarettes and without question the most off-putting display of the tobacco category I have seen in 26 years covering this industry.
If Thailand’s Ministry of Health had arranged and merchandised the shop they would have been hard-pressed to match this effort in putting travellers off smoking not just in this life but in any afterlives that may follow. Readers of a nervous disposition should look away now.
It’s not the retailer’s fault, of course, that Thai cigarette pack warnings are so graphic, but to make such a feature of them almost defies belief. I think I’ve developed a smoker’s cough just looking at it. The category is already in enough trouble in travel retail without giving opponents of smoking added ammunition.
And now, as they say, for something completely different. Having landed at Dubai International Terminal 3 for a brief transit stop-over before heading to London, I came across the Le Clos fine wine store, one of three outlets under that name at the airport run by Emirates Group subsidiary Maritime Mercantile International.
It’s simply outstanding. In the windows a fantastic array of Château Mouton Rothschild vintages. Inside a dazzling line-up of New World and Old World wines, presented with elegance and class. Leather armchairs, wooden cases, great wines and spirits showcased behind and under glass. Magnums of Château d’Yquem, various Pétrus vintages, some of the world’s greatest spirits. A wine aficionado’s heaven.
I noted the store supervisor was Chinese, an indication of which passengers are particularly drawn here. But it’s not just the Chinese – look at the multi-lingual board outside the store.
Full marks to Le Clos and to Dubai International. Don’t forget that the airport also houses the fantastic Penfolds boutique (run by Dubai Duty Free and pictured below) that I spoke of in a previous Blog and high-quality wine areas in the main Dubai Duty Free Arrivals and Departures stores.
So there you have it. A tale of two airports, small and large. A tale of the good (well, actually excellent), the bad and the very, very ugly.
Footnote: Coming up soon on The Moodie Blog: My search for excellence in airport wine retailing continues as I say hooray to Hamburg and to Heinemann.