Dubai Duty Free: the world’s most famous duty-free shop
Dubai International’s dramatic rise to become one of the world’s largest international airports mirrors the amazing transformation of the city-state it serves from a tiny fishing village into a sprawling modern metropolis. When Dubai airport first opened in 1950 aircraft took off from a single runway constructed of compacted desert sand. Fast forward to 2011 and the airport handled a record 50.1 million passengers, making it the fourth biggest in the world in terms of international passenger traffic.Moreover, the airport’s sole retailer, Dubai Duty Free, is unquestionably the world’s most famous duty-free operator. The recipient of countless consumer and trade awards in its illustrious 28-year history, Dubai Duty Free is now a household name thanks in part to its millionaire prize draws and its sponsorship of major sports events at home and abroad such as the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championship, as well as the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby.
With sales of about $1.25 billion last year, Dubai Duty Free is officially the world’s single biggest largest duty-free operation, outstripping other airport retail giants such as London Heathrow and Seoul Incheon. Part of its continuing success lies in its knack of keeping its diverse passenger mix happy • selling luxury designer brands to the wealthy Asian and European high-rollers passing through on long-haul flights, as well as tons of mass-market confectionery and blended Scotch whisky to the army of ex-pat Indian workers without whom Dubai wouldn’t function.
The layout of the shopping offer in Terminals 1 and 2 is similar and easy to navigate. As befits its importance to the overall product mix, the gold shop with its famous gold palm tree occupies a central site on both concourses with the other main categories such as fashion, souvenirs, watches and perfumes and cosmetics located around it.Gold is of course big business for Dubai Duty Free• it sold an astonishing 1,900 kilogrammes of the stuff back in 1999, and offers a wide array of 18, 22 and 24 carat gold in a range of designs and styles. However, be aware that if you are staying for any length of time in Dubai, you may find prices are cheaper in the city’s souks. Downtown you are also likely to be able to haggle prices down, something, which is not possible (or welcomed) at the airport.
Shoppers will find all the usual international fragrance and beauty brands stocked by Dubai Duty Free, but why not experiment with one of the many Arabian fragrance brands on offer? The Middle East is rightly famous for its long and rich history of perfume manufacture and as the source of iconic ingredients such as myrrh and incense. Regional fragrance brands such as Arabian Oud, Amouage and Ajmal are becoming increasingly sought after internationally. Expect to find sturdy, highly decorative bottles, which often contain strong, sensual, woody fragrances.
In 2008 Dubai International opened the world’s largest airport terminal, the $4.5 billion Emirates Terminal 3 (T3), which added some 11,000 square metres of shopping space to the airport, effectively double what was previously available. Over 30 different stores ply their business there, offering high-end fashion from the likes of Giorgio Armani, Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren and Hermes, as well as watches and jewellery from Cartier, Rolex and Omega.
A recent addition to the line up at T3 is Emporium, a swish cocktail bar and fine spirits and Champagne store, which is run jointly by Diageo, the owner of Johnnie Walker, Tanqueray, Baileys, Ketel One and countless other spirits, and Moët-Hennessy, the owner of Hennessy cognac, Veuve Clicquot, Moët & Chandon and Dom Pérignon. It aims to combine the sort of luxury service you’d find at a five-star hotel with the ultra-premium wines and spirits such as Hennessy Richard and Johnnie Walker Blue Label you would find at Selfridges or Harrods.If you like fine French wine, head over to either of the two Le Clos stores in Terminal 3, which both sell arguably the best selection of wines available anywhere in travel-retail, including the most collected of Bordeaux names such as Château Margaux, Château Mouton-Rothschild, Château Cos d’Estournel and Château Haut Brion. The stores also stock a great range of rare and aged single malt whiskies, cognacs, rums and tequilas.
If you are uncertain about which wine to opt for or need general advice, be sure to ask one of Le Clos’ highly-trained, multi-lingual sales staff for help. Alternatively, check out the retailer’s well-laid out website, www.leclos.net before you travel. It allows you to pre-order wines and spirits online, and then collect them when you depart Dubai. Alternatively, those living in Dubai can choose and pay for their purchase on departure and then collect it on their return.
Dubai Duty Free’s general website, www.dubaidutyfree.com has improved greatly in recent years. You are now able to download a full product listings guide complete with updated prices, which runs to an impressive 45 pages. There is also a much, shorter section on newly listed brands and special offers. You can also buy tickets for the retailer’s popular prize draws, which offer prizes such as sports cars and up to $2 million in cash.
Like the city it serves, Dubai international is also ready plotting the next chapter in rapid rise to global dominance. For instance, later this year the new Concourse 3 will open exclusively to handle passengers on A380 Superjumbo flights. Connected to Terminal 3 by an automated passenger mover, it will add yet another 11,000 square metres of shopping space, as well as two hotels and two food courts.
One thing is for certain, with all this expansion on the cards, Dubai Duty Free is unlikely to be relinquishing its position as the world’s largest duty-free operator anytime soon.
Check your duty free allowances: Dubai Duty Free Allowances
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