Muscat Duty Free aims for record year


THE past year has been one of achieving high targets and this year looks even better.

Muscat Duty Free recorded its highest sales in December 2005 and might break that record in January 2006, says a confident Stephen O’Connor, general manager of Muscat Duty Free.
In conversation with TTN, he said that growth has been substantial in the past three years since their company, Oman Sales and Services (OSS) was awarded a 9? year concession to operate Seeb International Airport’s Duty Free. “Sales have reached over 100 per cent in the last three years. We have had a successful year sales wise which is great for a business that has only just started. We have invested heavily, are modifying and improving. Now, we are looking at reinvesting.”
He gives credit to the fact that tourism is now being promoted in a big way in Oman. “It takes time to promote a new market. However, more international passengers are coming, which definitely has had a positive effect. There has been a marginal increase, but definitely so… Our passengers profile is not unique; we have different people from different strata coming in. Chartered flights from Russia (in December) and tourists coming in from countries like France, Germany and Finland have helped,” he affirms. Over the last three years, the company has retained $80 million in the country.
With regard to regional competition, he says there are large players in the market like Dubai and Bahrain, who have won international awards with Abu Dhabi contending every year. However, Muscat Duty Free has been able to compete on service and price vis-à-vis other duty free and downtown prices. “Dubai Duty Free is large on transfers and can afford to charge even extra. We not only have to compete with other duty free prices but also downtown prices… As we are part of an international group, we can get better deals internationally, regionally and locally,” he explains.
Other than an ongoing car raffle, Muscat Duty Free has a tie-up with Gulf Air wherein on spending RO25, consumers can win a ticket to Dublin or Johannesburg, the airline’s newest destinations. This promotion runs until March, with a World Cup promotion later in the year.
O’Connor said their is based on a minimum annual guarantee, which means they must pay a set amount whether they are profitable or not. “We have to be much more astute in managing our business and cannot afford to miss time and waste opportunities,” he remarks. However, as their operation is on a smaller scale, they can change and adapt very quickly, which works to their advantage.
By April, O’Connor is hopeful that the new Muscat Duty Free look will be in place wherein they will gain additional space, invest in fixtures, change the layout and introduce new product lines in fashion as well as increase the cosmetic line. The new airport is scheduled to be ready by the year 2010 wherein the Duty Free will gain more space and will be able to expand even further matching with any other Duty Free in the region.

By Kavita Pandit