DDF plots retail course ahead of DWC transition

By Luke Barras-hill |

Ramesh Cidambi (left) offered TR Consumer Forum delegates plenty of pause for thought during an enthralling exchange, laced with his trademark candour, with moderator John Rimmer.

Dubai Duty Free’s (DDF) Managing Director Ramesh Cidambi has says there is a “clear direction” to sharpen the retail offer at Dubai International Airport (DXB) ahead of the expected switch of operations to Al Maktoum International (Dubai World Central) Airport in the coming decade.

Addressing delegates at last week’s TR Consumer Forum in Dubai, 3-5 June, where DDF was host sponsor, Cidambi said he was thrilled with the recently approved design plans for the construction of the dhs128 billion/US$35 billion phase two expansion of the passenger terminal.

Operations at DXB are expected to shift to DWC, situated in Jebel Ali, in the coming decade with DXB remaining Dubai’s primary hub in the meantime and capable of handling more than 100 million passengers in the coming years.

As reported, work to renovate and refurbish DDF’s arrivals shops across the terminals is already underway; new liquor shops opened in Concourse A and B in May; Louis Vuitton and Cartier boutiques have now bolstered the lineup in Concourse A; and the watches offer is currently being upgraded in Concourse B as new boutique offers are being studied closely.

A focus on the P&C assortment at Concourse A is expected to follow in due course.

Infrastructure: Difference in age

Approximately 30-35% of the total retail offer over 38,000sq m is being renovated, representing an investment of more than $50m.

“We have a project to upgrade the retail offer at DXB because we’re still there for at least eight more years while continuing to work on Al Maktoum,” said Cidambi.

While acknowledging the developments, the new chief of DDF struck a note of caution.

“The bigger challenge is how we continue to meet the expectations of passengers in such large numbers with the retail landscape which develops differently in different places, as some areas are older than others.”

In a video interview for with the June/July Top 10 Airports e-zine conducted during the TFWA Asia Pacific Exhibition & Conference in Singapore last month [click below to watch the full exchange], Cidambi told TRBusiness: “The first order of business is to continue to develop the retail offer in the airport. The retail offer needs to be fresh and inviting.”

Operational constraints

“We need to look at each part of our business, whether it is marketing, our ability to reach consumers and communicate to them, to look at employee teams and training and development, and look at operations in terms of efficiency,” he continued.

“One of the things that has happened over the years is that the cost of operations or doing business has gone up and there is pressure in terms of profitability. We have to look at each part of our operations and see how we can do things better.”

For more on Dubai Duty Free, click the respective links below.

READ MORE: TR Consumer Forum 2024: Ramesh Cidambi gives keynote speech

READ MORE: DXB defends ACI top spot as DDF announces new management  

READ MORE: Top 10 Airports Dubai International

READ MORE: Colm McLoughlin to retire as Cidambi takes on DDF reins as MD

Lead image: An artist’s impression of the phase two expansion project of Al Maktoum International Airport DWC. Credit: Dubai Airports.

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