December 5 2017  |  Retailers

Dufry celebrates state-of-the-art retail at Sharjah

By Hibah Noor in Sharjah, UAE

Iain Forrest, General Manager, Middle East, India & Subcontinent, Dufry

Dufry has completed its renovations at Sharjah International Airport, where the leading international duty free operator has created a state-of-the-art airside retail space.

Speaking to Gulf-Africa Duty Free recently inside the stunning walkthrough boutique, Iain Forrest, General Manager, Middle East, India & Subcontinent, Dufry, says the business is performing well.

The company started the revamp in May 2017 and the first section that opened was fragrances and cosmetics. The refurbishment then moved into the confectionery area, followed by the alcohol section. The last department to undergo a refresh was the cash desk area. And more is to come. In January 2018, Dufry will start building its Hudson shop covering 110 square meters, which will be in an airside location that’s new to the airport. Dufry already operates a Hudson store in the landside area. The new space should be ready by the end of March.

Speaking to Gulf-Africa Duty Free recently inside the stunning walkthrough boutique, Iain Forrest, General Manager, Middle East, India & Subcontinent, Dufry, says the business is performing well. “We are happy, and the good thing was we did not see any drop in business during the renovation, so business remained stable and increased towards the end.”

Passenger numbers at the UAE airport this year are also stable, and are set to reach 12 million, growing by 2% year-on-year.

Expanded selection of brands

Turning to the customer demographics, Forrest is seeing more passengers from Iran and Syria traveling through Sharjah Airport, and also more Russians visiting the country as tourists. This is impacting the product mix. “Syrians are very much into perfumes and gifting perfumes; it’s the same with Russians, but Russians are not spending like they use to,” he observes. “They are coming on vacation and spending money on hotels and not so much in the shops. But certainly the Syrians and Iranians are spending in the shops on products like sunglasses and watches.”

In a bid to entice customers, Dufry has boosted the number of brands offered at Sharjah. On the cosmetics side, Benefit is new and “working very well”, he notes, as are Bobbi Brown and Cartier. The company has localized its fragrances, with more focus on the oud scents for the Arab customers, which is proving successful. The range of Tom Ford products has also been extended.

The confectionery section has changed a lot more, with an expanded selection of local foods, which were not available before. There’s also more exposure to the big global brands like Mars, Nestle, etc, which Forrest notes are very popular in this market.

The standard range of souvenirs, which are mostly bought by Russian CIS customers, is set to move into the new Hudson store, as the company aims to keep the main shop specifically for more premium products.

The average spend depends on the nationality, but GCC passengers, particularly from Saudi Arabia, are the highest spenders, he says.

Further retail expansion is also on the cards for Dufry, according to Forrest. This will include remote locations such as kiosks. The firm will know in the first quarter of 2018 what the additional space should be.

Focal point of the shop

Walking through the refurbished store, Forrest points to one of the 30 video screens across the terminal that Dufry can adapt to all the local promotions and national days.

All the Arab products have been placed on the right hand side, which is very much the focal point of the shop. “Sharjah was the first walkthrough shop in the Middle East 20 years ago. It’s in a fantastic location as well,” he smiles.

He points to Cartier, which was brought in for the Saudi customers, and notes that Dufry was the first retailer to feature Victoria’s Secret in a duty free shop in the Middle East some three years ago.

In a further development, Dufry added more checkouts in November 2017. The operator has yet to add Samsung Pay or Apple Pay, but Forrest says that the company’s Hong Kong team are looking into these digital payment apps. “The Asian market is very comfortable [with payment apps] and the Indian market is comfortable, so it’s something we could look at to have here because 50% of our passengers are from the Indian continent.”

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