In 2014, Dubai International Airport officially surpassed London’s Heathrow Airport to become the world’s busiest, with 70.4 million passengers walking through its doors. Poised to take advantage of all these business and leisure travellers is Dubai Duty Free—the only duty free stores at both of Dubai’s airports. Servicing just 12 million passengers annually in 2000, both the airport and its duty free offering have grown dramatically.
“There has been a lot of organic growth,” says Executive Vice Chairman and CEO Colm McLoughlin. “This year we opened a new concourse at the airport, called Concourse D, where we put an additional 7,000 square metres of duty free space.”
Concourse D takes Dubai Duty Free to an all new level, with a bright and spacious customer-friendly retail space centrally located close to a range of restaurants and the departure gates. The new retail offer expanded the store’s luxury portfolio, and introduced new brands, including Tiffany & Co, Burberry, and Cartier. “By 2020 we expect the traffic to have grown considerably,” says Colm.
“Last year traffic at Dubai International Airport (DIA) was 78 million. This year they are forecasting 85 million passengers. Last year our business was just bordering US$2 billion, but by 2020 we expect our business to be US$3 billion and we expect our service to have grown from the present figure of 34,000 square metres to 80,000 square metres by around 2022.”
To get an idea of how much money these lucrative square metres generate, you need to look no further than the company’s anniversary celebration last year. Dubai Duty Free marked its thirty-second anniversary with a special 25% discount on a wide range of merchandise over 3 days which began at midnight on 17 December and continued until midnight on the operation’s anniversary day on 20 December, 2015. Total sales for the 3 days topped AED178.5 million (US$48.5 million).
An operation this large needs well-trained, well-organised staff. For Colm, low employee turnover is important, too. “We are happy to say that for each of the last 3 years our staff turnover has been 6.3 or 6.4%,” he says. “We think that is vital to offer the proper service to our customers.”
When Dubai Duty Free first opened 32 years ago, it employed just 100 management and staff, and, astonishingly, 31 of those original employees still work there today. “We have an internal training section in our HR department, and we have a policy of internal promotion within our company—many of our senior people are long-serving staff who started with us in a junior capacity several years ago.”