Dubai Duty Free reintroduces testers; reveals 2022 forecast

By Charlotte Turner |

While Dubai Duty Free continues to navigate the constantly evolving health measures it must implement in order to adhere to Covid-safe guidelines, it was gifted a most welcome reprieve in October when The National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA) allowed the retailer to reintroduce physical testers – also known as perfume blotters or ‘scent strips’ – into shops and gave the company permission to once again sell ‘loose’ food, such as nuts.


In an interview with TRBusiness – which will appear in the Middle East & Africa special edition ezine – Dubai Duty Free COO, Ramesh Cidambi also tells Charlotte Turner that the company’s annual forecast of Dhs5.1bn/$1.4bn in 2022 assumes a moderation in spend per passenger, while stipulating that improvements in trading thus far in 2021 have been underpinned by high vaccination rates in key markets as well as the continued relaxation of travel restrictions.


While the decision from the NCEMA will be received positively from DDF’s beauty brand partners, at this stage the company has not explicitly asked for, or received permission for, the reintroduction of sampling (for liquor and confectionery etc).


“This has been a big step for us,” says Cidambi.

“This has been a big step for us,” says Cidambi.


The company has also been permitted to remove the tensile barriers – erected to control passenger flow – but plexiglass barriers to protect the staff at the cash points remain in use.


“This has been a big step for us,” says Cidambi. “Through our conversations with perfumes and cosmetics companies, the physical testers remain very important for them as a sales tool and also to engage with the customer on the shop floor.


“Digital innovations are definitely gaining traction, but the brands feel that the physical testers remain important in the context of a retail store.”


Cidambi emphasises that digital is only part of the offer and while home delivery presented a fantastic alternative method to generate revenue during lockdown – especially for dated merchandise such as confectionery – it will not become a more dominant service in the short-term.


“It remains part of the business and an effective way for us to reach out to the consumer who is in the UAE, but in the medium to long-term, unless we have a major rethink of it, I don’t think it will become more important.”


What will become more important to Dubai Duty Free will be engagement with customers using digital tools.


“This includes click and collect, home delivery, digital marketing in terms of acquisition of customer data, better engagement with the customer, better tracking of the customers over the customer life cycle; all of that has an accumulative benefit.


“But the online space is currently 5% of our revenue and if we can hold that in 2022 I think we’ll do well.”


The full-length interview appears in the November (Middle East & Africa) TRBusiness ezine.


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