BUS 190528 Colm McLoughlin14-1559916146002
Colm McLoughlin,Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free during the interview with Gulf News at Dubai Duty Free Head Office in Dubai. Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman /Gulf News

Dubai: After 50 years in the business of duty free retail, Colm McLoughlin, executive vice-chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free (DDF) still gives a quizzical look when he hears the word “retirement”.

“Retire? What’s that?” he quips.

On June 1, McLoughlin celebrated 50 years in the business, most of which were spent in Dubai. He joined DDF in 1983 after more than 14 years with Ireland’s Shannon Airport. In fact, McLoughlin first came to Dubai as a representative from Shannon Airport to help set up duty free operations in the emirate.

After a six-month-stint in Dubai, the Irishman was asked if he would stay and oversee operations at DDF.

“I enjoy what I’m doing very much. I have no plan in my mind to immediately walk away or anything like that. I certainly have no intention in an individual capacity to leave and do something else.”

In his 50 years in the industry, McLoughlin says the most notable change he has seen is the jump in traffic and growth in the business.

“In 1984, there were three million passengers through Dubai Airport. Last year, there were 89 million. In 1984, our business in Dubai Duty Free was sales of $20 million. Last year, it was in excess of $2 billion.”

McLoughlin got into the duty free industry after working for years in retail, including at Woolworths in London. He applied for a job at Shannon Duty Free, and has been in the business since.

Under his leadership, DDF has become one of the largest single airport retailers in the world.