As he addressed guests at the inauguration of China Duty Free Group’s (CDFG) diverse store network at Daxing International Airport on 19 November, company President Charles Chen gestured with his arms held out wide at the architectural wonderment that encompassed the audience like a giant amphitheatre.
“Daxing International is a very great airport,” he said. “It is a new force in terms of the development of our country. It hasn’t been easy; this airport was built in under five years – it’s unbelievable. And it’s historic that we have such a beautiful airport.”
China Duty Free Group (CDFG) President Charles Chen
No-one among the VIPs, brand partners, media or influencers present would have disagreed. As the opening ceremony played out in vibrant style with a traditional dragon and lion dance ceremony, both the spectacle and the environment reminded guests that they were inside a wonder of the aviation world.
The Chinese travel retail powerhouse opened 28 shops at the capital’s new gateway in time for the inauguration, with a further seven to follow. The travel retailer operates a mix of anchor stores (beauty, liquor, tobacco and confectionery), together with several specialist shops in the international zone, plus a range of fashion stores in the domestic area.
The Moodie Davitt Report was the sole media in attendance as CDFG senior management, Beijing Daxing International Airport and Beijing Capital Airport Commercial & Trading Co representatives, as well as selected brand executives, gathered for the vibrant opening ceremony.
Chen, who was also promoted in 2019 to President of CDFG parent company China International Travel Service, led proceedings and was joined in the official speeches by Beijing New International Airport Executive Deputy General Manager Sun Chunjing.
Daxing International was inaugurated on 25 September by Chinese leader Xi Jinping. After the initial launch of domestic flights, international flights then began on 27 October, prompting the soft opening of the CDFG stores.
Chen described the store inauguration as “a new milestone for China’s duty free industry”. Speaking without notes in both Chinese and English, he told guests: “On behalf of China International Travel Service (CITS) and China Duty Free Group, I offer a warm welcome to Daxing International Airport to attend the ceremony marking the opening of the new duty free stores.”
“China Duty Free Group has developed so fast over the past three years,” he continued. “I can say that by the end of the year, sales of China Duty Free will be nearly five times the level compared with just three years ago. We were then ranked number 12 in the world [according to The Moodie Davitt Report Top 25 Travel Retailers – Ed]; by last year we were number four. We are not just developing our business inside of China in places such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou but we are also developing our overseas business very, very fast.
“And we’re not just developing locations – we are also developing our key capabilities, such as merchandising, operations, IT, supply chain and marketing. We have made a lot of progress.
“You can see that progress by the fact that within three months of winning the bid for Daxing International Airport, we built these duty free stores. Of course, we have had great support from all the brands – so I thank the brands so much for all their support.
“I also take this opportunity to thank the Daxing airport authority for having so much trust in CDF Group and giving us the licence to operate the duty free store here. I can promise you that we will provide the best services at the most competitive prices to our customers. And I can guarantee you that Daxing Airport will have one of the best CDFG duty free stores. I also thank Beijing Capital Airport Commercial & Trading Co. I promise you that business will be booming and that Beijing Daxing International Airport, Beijing Capital Airport Commercial & Trading Co, and CDFG will together have a great future.”
There seems to be little doubt over that. While Daxing’s initial focus is on domestic flights, international passenger growth post the COVID-19 crisis will be rapid in coming years as more airlines transition out of the ageing Beijing Capital International Airport. As Daxing grows, so will CDFG, roaring as loudly as the lions and dragons that graced the opening ceremony.
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