Dubai Duty Free records 40% jump in annual revenue as passenger traffic recovers

The airport retailer earned $970m in revenue and recorded more than 9 million transactions during 2021

Perfumes, cigarettes and tobacco were among the top five products sold by the airport retailer during the year. Photo: Dubai Duty Free
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Dubai Duty Free recorded Dh3.56 billion ($970 million) in annual sales in 2021, a 40 per cent increase on the previous year, as passenger traffic through the world's busiest international airport began to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic.

The airport retailer recorded more than nine million transactions during the year, ringing up an average of 25,000 transactions a day, and sold 26 million units of merchandise, Dubai Duty Free said on Tuesday.

"Overall, it has been a very good year for the operation despite the challenges of the pandemic," Colm McLoughlin, executive vice chairman and chief executive of Dubai Duty Free, said.

The jump in annual airport retail sales came as passenger traffic through Dubai International Airport started a gradual recovery during the year from the effects of the pandemic.

The emirate's airport operator raised its forecast for annual passenger traffic for 2021 by two million, anticipating that traveller numbers at the airport will reach 28.7 million. Dubai Airports is projecting 57 million annual passengers for 2022.

After the reopening of the final phase of Concourse A at Terminal 3, Dubai International Airport is operating at full capacity after 20 months of reduced operations because of the pandemic. Dubai World Central, the emirate's second airport, will reopen its passenger terminal in May.

The top five products sold during the year were perfumes, liquor, cigarettes and tobacco, gold, and electronics, according to the airport retailer.

Perfume sales at the airport reached Dh698m and accounted for 19.59 per cent of the total annual sales. Liquor sales amounted to Dh617m or 17 per cent of total annual revenue.

The airport retailer earned Dh348m from cigarettes and tobacco sales, which contributed 10 per cent to total revenue. Gold purchases totalled Dh290m, or 8 per cent of all sales, while electronics earned Dh278m and accounted for 7.8 per cent of annual sales.

Online sales represented 5 per cent of the overall tally for 2021, reaching Dh177m.

Meanwhile, sales in the departures area across the operation reached Dh2.9bn, making up 84 per cent of total sales, while sales in the arrivals area reached Dh373m or 10 per cent of annual sales.

"We have continued to develop our retail offer in all the terminals and that included the opening of a Christian Dior boutique in Concourse A and B and a Louis Vuitton shop in Concourse B," Mr McLoughlin said.

"We are now looking forward to the opening of a Cartier boutique in Concourse B and the reopening of the Chanel boutique in Concourse A in the first quarter of this year.”

In November, Dubai Duty Free said it will rehire about 700 workers who were laid off during the pandemic as passenger numbers pick up at airports in the emirate.

Average spending per passenger was "rising through the roof" Dubai International Airport, although the volumes had yet to fully recover fully to pre-pandemic levels, Paul Griffiths, chief executive of operator Dubai Airports, told The National at the Dubai Airshow in November 2021.

"It is hugely better than it was even pre-Covid. The future will be the complete disaggregation of the point of sale from the point of delivery," Mr Griffiths said.

In future, passengers will be given the option to order duty free goods in-flight and choose where to have them delivered.

"There are many digital processes where we believe we will merge the different sales channels and the different delivery channels and give people the choice to order in-flight," he said.

"Rather than have 24 minutes, which is the average that you have got to influence people to buy stuff when they are in the airport, why not use all the time they have got before they fly and when they are in the air to browse through an infinite catalogue and choose where they want their goods delivered. That, surely, is the ultimate retail opportunity."

Updated: January 05, 2022, 4:10 AM