Why rice will never turn to gold at The Moodie Davitt Report

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

Dear Sir/Madam,

We are the Congolese Revolutionary Army in North Kivu DRC.

Please let us know if you as an individual or your organisation will accept to sign a contract with us to supply us rice in exchange to our raw gold. We shall send you our raw gold, then you supply us rice equivalent to our raw gold.

Regard,

Capt. Peter

The unsolicited email sounded promising. After all, ever since the COVID-19 crisis started to escalate in mid-January, I have been considering the wisdom of having a business solely reliant on the travel retail market. For if passengers don’t want to fly, or aren’t allowed to; airlines are grounded; airports restricted and some whole terminals closed; and national borders closed, then travel retail publishing stands to be a pretty difficult business – at least in revenue, though not demand, terms.

Diversification into raw gold, always a safe haven in times of trouble, sounds just the thing. There’s just one problem – I haven’t got any rice. Well that’s not true, I’ve got a couple of packs of basmati in my larder, but that’s probably not going to get me more than one of those flakes you get in a bottle of Smirnoff Gold or that rather tasty Goldschläger Swiss cinnamon schnapps.

Perhaps I should launch a new publication dedicated to rice. Just as with The Moodie Davitt Report, getting the facts right would be integral to success; there would have to be a grain of truth in every story. I would always be out in the field, of course, while my business partner Dermot Davitt would be recast as Chief Editor Paddy Fields. And, of course, we could cerealise much of the feature content.

4.32 in the morning in The Moodie Davitt Lockdown Bureau. To survive a crisis like this you have to work harder than you have ever done in your life.

In fact though, I’ve never had more faith in our core business. Yes, revenues are down. Way, way down. Yes, we have four staff on furlough and everyone else on significantly reduced packages. But traffic is way, way up (sadly, we may be the only people other than CDFG in Hainan who can say that right now); we’ve never been busier nor, I think (and I keep getting told this), better.

With such a skeleton editorial staff – myself, Dermot and the young human ball of energy that is Fashion, Beauty & Social Media Editor Hannah Tan-Gillies, together with quite brilliant input from our Senior Retail and Commercial Analyst Min Yong Jung, who is currently completing his self-quarantine in Seoul having flown home (out of an eerily deserted Heathrow Airport) a few days back – it is all hands to the pump. The same for our technology, design, sales (tough job right now) and administration teams.

All pictures: Min Yong Jung

Our advertising partners have been remarkably supportive, especially considering that many of them are doing little business at all and many others are really only focused on the resurgent Hainan offshore duty free business in China and some growing daigou trade out of South Korea and Hong Kong, especially. We don’t want to change our ‘free to air’ model, tempting though it is, reasoning that it is critical that as a responsible, neutral information voice we are heard by as many people as possible.

My principles in running a business mid-crisis are exactly the same as they were at the start of it. Shine as a product and service; act responsibly and sympathetically; have a ‘voice’; balance coverage between the negative and the positive, hard though it might be to find examples of the latter; be pragmatic on costs without leaving yourself fatally weakened when better days comes; maintain a sense of humour even when it’s hard to laugh.

There are more: Work harder than you have ever worked in your life; don’t believe you have a right to survive – whole sectors have been hit, even eradicated by disrupters and Black Swans and the latter don’t come much blacker than COVID-19.

Be fast, flexible, reinvent yourselves constantly. What applied last week might be irrelevant this week. Listen, listen, listen. Give back however you can, whether it’s extending terms to those who are struggling to pay you, or adding value to (and thanking) those that support you. Don’t forget good causes – they suffer hugely during such times. Corporately we have to be the equivalent of good citizens. We will all remember how others behaved in this crisis.

Black Swans everywhere and a copy of Spike Milligan’s The Looney to remind me of what’s going on in the White House

What about diversification? Much, however, as our core business will always remain travel retail, and much as The Moodie Davitt Report.com will always be the website that never sleeps, innovation is another key principle that I espoused to my team at the time this nasty black swan first floated into sight. That means we will consider all options, not just the obvious.

In that regards, we have cancelled our physical events for the year and opted instead for the virtual route. The reaction to our Virtual Travel Retail Expo (pictured above) has been hugely encouraging, a mixture of first curiosity and then overwhelming positivity. We are honoured to be working with Alex Cook and his brilliant team at Singaporean integrated retail, marketing and design agency FILTR on the project, who are showing us the art of the possible. We’re delighted to have secured the partnership of such major players as Pernod Ricard Global Travel, Beam Suntory and Seva Group with many more to be named in coming days. We’re just as excited that many of the world’s biggest travel retailers have told us they will visit the Expo, without having to spend a cent or leave their desks. And we’re thrilled by the power of the speaking line-up we will name soon for the Symposium part of the Expo.

We’re not stopping there either. Watch this space in coming days for some of the biggest innovations in our 18-year history. We’re hanging in well. And so, despite a further rummage through the kitchen cupboards having uncovered a packet of jasmine rice, Captain Peter’s barter is not for me.

 

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