THIS WEEK’S WORLD DUTY FREE FIASCO. LESSONS TO BE LEARNED

THIS WEEK’S WORLD DUTY FREE FIASCO. LESSONS TO BE LEARNED

By: Peter Marshall   •   email: info@trunblocked.com

PAS ENCORE!! A week ago, this blog posted a feature as to the likely scenario that could evolve as, when and if ‘Duty Free Returns After Brexit’. The thrust of the feature highlighted the potential ambiguities that the Travel Retail industry will confront if duty free shopping returns to the UK shores. It was designed primarily to precipitate clear thinking by key players in order to avoid any negative media or consumer reaction.

The feature specifically focused on the potentially negative PR that could ensue in relation to PRICING – unless the issue was not managed carefully by all retail stakeholders. There was a great deal of readership of this post.

Since publication, another major airport retail scandal involving World Duty Free has emerged, regarding apparent prejudicial promotional terms affecting Chinese travellers. The BBC and Chinese media headlined the matter and Heathrow Airport declared:

”Heathrow duty free Chinese discrimination unacceptable”.

The new scandal went viral and the social media reaction in China – a core contributor to the industry – was huge. After an initial limp statement from World Duty Free, a full apology followed, with a commitment to put things right. It was good that this was done quickly.

But the damage had already been done – to the retailer and to the airport and brands by default.

What this has spurred is a clear requirement for all parties in Europe, and especially the UK, to consider how these self-inflicted wounds can be avoided in the future. And, specifically, to give far greater transparency an definition to what ‘Duty Free’ actually means to the travelling passenger post Brexit. We believe that airports must be more involved. Because this is an issue that will not disappear as easily as this week’s scandal will over a period of time.

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