Jul. 28, 2020

Colm McLoughlin

UAE, Dubai

Colm McLoughlin

Executive Vice Chairman & CEO, Dubai Duty Free (DDF)

One of the leading airport retailers in the world, DDF currently operates some 40,000sqm of retail space at Dubai International Airport and Al Maktoum International Airport, reporting sales over USD2.029 billion in 2019.


Colm McLoughlin was one of a team of 10 from Aer Rianta (the Irish Airport Authority) who moved to Dubai in 1983 at the request of the Dubai government to set up DDF. Following the successful opening of DDF in 1983, he was asked to remain as general manager and later became its managing director. In 2011, he was named executive vice chairman & CEO of DDF and its subsidiary businesses, which include The Irish Village, Century Village, The Jumeirah Creekside Hotel, and DDF Tennis Stadium.

As the effective welcome and farewell committee to nearly every visitor to Dubai, how do you manage this task, and how does your approach align with Dubai's brand?
From the beginning, DDF has always had the dual mission of promoting the Dubai brand and the DDF brand. We are delighted to have established our brand identity from the early days, and DDF is now synonymous with quality, choice, service, ambience, and value. We currently operate around 40,000 sqm of retail space at Dubai International Airport and Al Maktoum International Airport and employ almost 6,100 staff, who, I believe, are the best trained staff in the world, serving almost 90 million passengers in 2019. We have been, and continue to be, committed to investing in a wide-reaching marketing campaign that is aimed ultimately at “Turning Flyers into Buyers." In 2019, as the operation celebrated its 36th anniversary, 2.5% of its turnover was dedicated to its marketing campaign. And over the past year, DDF has continued to invest in a communication strategy that covers event management, sports sponsorship, industry sponsorship, advertising, public relations, media relations, promotions, and community projects that give DDF and Dubai the exposure that puts us on the map.

How is DDF looking to expand collaborations beyond the airport?
While the successful running of the shop floor is our major focus, we also promote Dubai to a global audience and, along with many other entities, aim to retain Dubai's reputation as a leading business, leisure, and sporting capital. In terms of sports sponsorship, one of the highlights was the DDF Tennis Championships, which has been running for 28 years and is owned and organized by DDF. Media analysis show that the two-week tournament generated an estimated USD1.3 billion worth of TV exposure for Dubai, of which USD445 million is for the DDF brand alone. We also support international horseracing events and paid two visits this year to Newbury Racecourse in the UK in April and September, as well as Ascot for the DDF Shergar Cup in August. June also saw the 12th DDF Irish Derby, which was held at the newly renovated Curragh Racecourse in Ireland. In addition, in Ireland, we attended the fifth DDF Irish Open, which was held at Lahinch Golf Club in County Clare in 2019.

How does DDF continuously surpass expectations to create meaningful retail experiences, and how do you anticipate retail to evolve in Dubai?
As a leading retailer in Dubai, we have consistently looked at ways to improve our retail offerings to an increasingly diverse passenger mix. We have collaborated more with our suppliers and partners to ensure we deliver the right products at the right prices in the right location. This combined with a series of strategic promotions, both in the physical stores and online, has seen an increase in sales in core categories. Also, with the increased presence of e-commerce, our customers value individual service and staff with in-depth product knowledge who are able to make recommendations based on their requirements and communicate with them in their language. This is especially important for younger travelers who expect convenience and an individual experience. This includes an expectation to offer a fast and convenient check out experience, and we now offer a wide choice of payment options including Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and AliPay. As our customers are constantly connected and thus comparing prices and product availability, we are conscious of offering great value and a wide selection of merchandise and relevant brands. DDF also launched a major digital marketing initiative in 2019 as part of its 'Road to USD3 billion' vision. This initiative saw us invest in both people and technology to increase digital reach and improve our customer engagement and service, connecting with the airports' nearly 90 million passengers in a more effective and personalized way.