From humble beginnings, Dubai Duty Free has grown into one of the biggest travel retail operator in the world.
Founded in 1983, Dubai Duty Free recorded first-year sales of US$20 million and has grown into one of the biggest travel retail operator in the world with sales turnover of US$1.93 billion in 2017.
Now employing 6,100 people, the operation has consistently raised the benchmark for airport retailing and it continues to grow. Dubai Duty Free currently operates some 38,000sqm of retail space at Dubai International Airport and 2,500 sqm at Al Maktoum International that will grow in line with the massive development plans of Dubai South.
In addition to its retail operation, Dubai Duty Free operates a Leisure Division which includes The Irish Village, both in Garhoud and Riverland Dubai, The Century Village, Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium and The Jumeirah Creekside Hotel.
While the successful running of the shopfloor is a major focus for Dubai Duty Free, the operation is highly committed to promoting Dubai through a series of high level sporting events including the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby.
To date, Dubai Duty Free has received 600 awards including the Frontier Awards for ‘Airport Retailer of the Year in Single Location’, which was won by the operation for the eighth time.
Dubai Duty Free’s Executive Vice Chairman and CEO, Colm McLoughlin was also presented with several awards including the “Irish Presidential Distinguished Service Award” and the CEO Middle East Awards for “Retail CEO of the Year”. In addition, he was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate of the University (DUniv) by the Middlesex University Dubai, as part of its celebration of the academic success of its Class of 2017. He was honored for his contribution to UAE society and outstanding service to the aviation sector as a key player in the region’s retail sector for 34 years.
Dubai Duty Free marked its 34th anniversary as it welcomed passengers travelling through Dubai with a special 25% discount on a wide range of merchandise over three days which began at midnight on 18th December and continued until the operation’s anniversary day on 20th December. Total sales for the three days reached Dhs196 million (US$54 million).
The anniversary discount for 72 hours resulted in a spending spree at Dubai International and at Al Maktoum International with sales figures on 18th December reaching Dhs36.929 million (US$10.117 million) and Dhs37.216 million (US$10.196 million) on 19th December. On the anniversary day itself, 20th December, Dubai Duty Free daily sales reached Dhs121.511 million (US$33.291 million) in the 24-hour period.
From a category point of view, Perfume was the highest selling category with sales of Dhs45.259 million (US$12.4 million) followed by Cosmetics with sales of Dhs39.329 million (US$10.775 million) and Watches with sales of Dhs35.064 million (US$9.606 million).
Dubai Duty Free has achieved new retail developments in 2017 which include adding around 2,000sqm of retail space in the Passenger Terminal building (PTB) of Al Maktoum International Airport (AMIA), while the refurbishment in Concourse C is currently ongoing and the improvement will comprise more presence of retail offer in the departures level distributed across the different gates and transfer points.
Additionally, Dubai Duty Free opened a 350sqm retail shop in Riverland Dubai at Dubai Parks and Resorts on 30th October 2017.
Other ongoing developments include the expansion of the warehouse automated system. The expansion will be able to achieve an additional storage capacity by over 25% for perfumes and cosmetics category by early part of 2018.
Whether it is on the golfing green, the tennis courts and the racecourse, sponsorship and the support of international events has been an integral part of Dubai Duty Free’s marketing strategy since 1983.
A supporter of golf for many years, Dubai Duty Free is a proud sponsor of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and the Ladies European Tour Omega Dubai Ladies Classic, held every year at Emirates Golf Club.
In addition to this, Dubai Duty Free hosts a series of high-profile golf tournaments, including the annual Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup, Dubai Duty Free UAE Nationals Cup, Dubai Duty Free Golf Cup and Dubai Irish Golf Society tournament.
Away from the golfing fairways, the firm tennis favourite with UAE tennis fans and a global TV audience is the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free. The tournament carries a prize pot of $5 million and was voted the ATP 500 Tournament of the Year in 2014, a remarkable 11th time in 12 years. The event comprises a WTA Premier 5 tournament played back-to-back with an ATP World Tour Series 500 Tournament. In 2017, the tournament celebrated its 25th anniversary with Elina Svitolina and Andy Murray who both claimed their first Dubai title.
International horse racing has provided an excellent medium for Dubai Duty Free to capture the global media attention and the Dubai Duty Free Stakes in the UK in April, the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup (Ascot) in August, the Dubai Duty Free International Raceday in September are part of the operation’s racing sponsorship in the UK. The operation is also the title sponsor of one of the biggest races in Europe, the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, which is held at the Curragh Racecourse in Ireland each June.
In July, the operation will continue its title sponsorship of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation to be held at Ballyliffin Golf Club in Ireland. The tournament, which was won by Jon Rahm in 2017, has become part of the Rolex Series offering prize money of US$7 million.
By supporting so many events at the highest level and all around the globe, Dubai Duty Free is effectively promoting Dubai’s sporting, leisure and business facilities, which are second to none. And with more and more world-class sportspeople choosing Dubai to showcase their talent, there is set to be much more to come in the future.