How is duty-free retail set to evolve in the future?

ADELE BERTI | December 10, 2019

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The concept of airport duty-free has expanded from a small luxury shop in Ireland to one of the highest-earning sectors of the retail industry. How did duty-free shopping at airports reach this height, and what does its future hold? sectors of the retail industry. How did duty-free shopping at airports reach this height, and what does its future hold? Duty-free shopping was the brainchild of Irish businessman Brendan O’Regan, who worked at the country’s then struggling Shannon Airport during the late 1940s as a catering comptroller. Whilst travelling back to Ireland from a transoceanic trip to the US, O’Regan took inspiration from an on-board shop that was selling duty-free goods and saw an opportunity. Four years later, the first duty-free shop in the world opened at Shannon Airport to sell whiskey for $1.50 per bottle, and the concept was soon replicated in many other European and international hubs. The rest is history. In the space of less than a century, O’Regan’s concept moved from being a local initiative to becoming a $70bn business welcoming tourists in almost all airports around the world.

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