Dubai Duty Free (DDF) is the company responsible for the duty-free operations at Dubai International Airport. DDF became the largest airport retailer in the world in terms of sales in 2012. DDF represents over 5% of global duty-free sales, generating 2014 revenues of $1.91 billion and 2016 revenues of $1.85 billion.
Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the uncle of the ruler of Dubai, is the company's chairman and Colm McLoughlin is the Executive Vice Chairman. DDF is a subsidiary of the government-owned Investment Corporation of Dubai.
The company began operations at Dubai International Airport in December 1983.
Aer Rianta, the operating company behind the world's first duty free in Shannon Airport, was invited to present a proposal for the operations and management of a Duty Free operation at Dubai International Airport. Up until this point, the airport had been served by a number of retail concessions, basically stalls managed by traders from the city of Dubai. Presented to Sheikh Mohammed by Director-General of Dubai Civil Aviation, Mohi-Din Binhendi, the proposal was accepted but with the caveat to make the duty free double the size of that proposed and to open it within six months.
The duty-free, at the time planned to serve three million passengers a year, was funded with an $820,000 loan from the National Bank of Dubai. One of the first challenges faced by the ten-man Aer Rianta management team (which had signed a consultancy contract with Dubai Civil Aviation) was to negotiate the transfer of the existing concessions, which resulted in Dubai Duty Free acquiring their stocks at rates preferential to the shop owners.
An advertising agency was appointed, coming up with the slogan, used to this day, 'Fly Buy Dubai'.
The duty free opened officially on 20 December 1983. At the end of the Aer Rianta consultancy contract, General Manager Colm McLoughlin was 'made an offer I couldn't refuse' to stay and manage the new operation. Two of the original Aer Rianta team stayed with him.
In 1985, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum became Chairman of Emirates Airline and also the Department of Civil Aviation.
The ongoing expansion of Dubai International Airport was mirrored by expansion of the duty free operation and by 1988 51 airlines used Dubai to service some 87 destinations, with a 4 million passenger throughput. Dubai Duty Free's takings rose from $44,000 on its first day's trading in December 1983 to $32 million annual sales in 1986. In 1987 it opened an arrivals duty-free shop and was taking some $200,000 a day. In 1989 Dubai Duty Free introduced its 'Finest Surprise' promotion, a 1,000 ticket raffle to win a luxury car. The promotion has run continuously since. Passenger throughput at Dubai crossed 5 million in 1990, helping to drive turnover to $95 million but operations were badly affected by the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. This was to ensure it took a further two years to cross the $100 million mark.
The opening of the Sheikh Rashid terminal at Dubai International Airport in 2000 was to see Dubai Duty Free's staff count rise to 900 and its floor space expand to 5,400 M2. Turnover in 2001 rose to $222 and in 2003, 20 years after it was established, turnover was $380 million. The opening of Terminal 3 and Concourse 2 and 3 at Dubai International added some 17,000 M2 of retail space. It also drove the increase of warehousing and logistical space: from a small shed storing goods for sale in 1983, DDF now had a 27,000 M2 warehouse and 28,000 M2 trucking bays.
By 2007, sales had reached $880 million. In 2010, its estimated sales were €900 million and in 2011, the operation generated revenues of US$1.46 billion.
The company employs 6,000 staff from over 50 nationalities.