Dubai Duty Free sales exceed $1bn through August to surpass 2021 total

Airport retailer's strong performance has allowed it to rebuild its workforce, which is nearing pre-Covid figures

DUBAI, UAE. December 3, 2013 - Workers ring through a customer purchase in the electronics department at Dubai Duty Free in  Dubai International Airport, December 3, 2013.  (Photo by: Sarah Dea/The National, Story by: STOCK, Business)

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Dubai Duty Free sales more than doubled to $1.06 billion in the first eight months of 2022, surpassing 2021's full-year total with four months remaining.

The increase in sales comes on the back of the continuing recovery in the aviation sector.

Departure sales at Dubai International Airport and Al Maktoum International Airport, which collectively account for 88 per cent of total sales, rose 115 per cent annually to $927 million, placing Dubai Duty Free on track to hit its full-year sales target of $1.6bn, the airport retailer said in a statement on Tuesday.

Total transactions through August reached more than 10 million with 29.3 million units of merchandise sold, Dubai Duty Free told The National, which equates to more than 41,500 transactions and 120,500 units sold on a daily basis.

This compares with the 9 million transactions and 26 million units sold for the whole of 2021.

“We have had a fantastic year so far and I am pleased that we have recovered over 80 per cent of our business from January to August, whereas the passenger recovery is about 67 per cent of 2019 levels,” Colm McLoughlin, executive vice chairman and chief executive of Dubai Duty Free, said.

The retailer's strong performance has also allowed it to rebuild its workforce. It has been able to recall almost 2,000 laid-off staff as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and current employee levels are now up at more than 4,400, which is “getting closer to pre-Covid figures”, Mr McLoughlin said.

The aviation sector was brought to a standstill by the pandemic as air travel was severely limited to control the spread of the virus. It gradually reopened, in line with broader economic activity, and the recovery continues to gather pace.

The UAE was among the first few countries which were successful in reopening its borders thanks to the enactment of sweeping safety measures and an aggressive vaccination campaign, which allowed economic sectors to resume their activities.

Monthly passenger traffic at Dubai International Airport, the world's busiest international airport, is expected to reach pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023, and a full recovery is within sight earlier than expected.

Passenger volumes at the airport are expected to be around the pre-pandemic rate of 7.8 million a month in the latter half of next year, Paul Griffiths, chief executive of Dubai Airports, told The National last month.

In May, Dubai International Airport raised its annual passenger traffic forecast for 2022 to 58.3 million, from an earlier projection of 57 million. In the first quarter of 2022, passenger traffic more than doubled to 13.6 million, resulting in its busiest quarter since 2020, state-owned Dubai Airports said at the time.

The airport operator now expects the Gulf hub to handle 77.8 million passengers in 2023, up from an earlier projection in April of 75.5 million.

Dubai Duty Free said perfumes ($186m), liquor ($168m), gold ($106m), cigarettes and tobacco ($98m) and electronics ($81m) remained the top five categories in terms of value during the eight-month period. In terms of growth, gold was the top segment, with sales almost tripling.

Fashion sales were the most prominent outside the top five categories, with sales more than tripling to $130m through August. This was driven by luxury fashion brands, as well as the further development of retail offerings, Dubai Duty Free said.

Departure sales at Dubai International's Terminal 2 were up by nearly 60 per cent, while sales at all concourses also registered considerable increases, mainly due to luxury boutiques, it added.

Online sales, meanwhile, reached $29m, which accounted for 3 per cent of total sales in the first eight months of 2022, the retailer said.

Dubai Airports is gearing up for the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar, which is slated to begin in November. The event is expected to boost traffic to Al Maktoum International Airport as it handles an additional 30 return flights to Doha during the global sporting event's period, Mr McLoughlin said.

“We are heading into a busy sales period for the last quarter … all in all, we are confident that we will reach our target at the end of December,” he said.

Updated: September 06, 2022, 1:09 PM