Sense of Place:

Progress of a pioneering location

In association with

The redeveloped Shannon Duty Free store takes inspiration from the west of Ireland, and from the industry’s founding father, Dr. Brendan O’Regan.

Cues from the past, looking to the future: The new face of Shannon Duty Free takes inspiration from the west of Ireland and from duty free’s founding father Dr. Brendan O’Regan himself.

Shannon Airport has a special place in the history of the duty free industry. Dr. Brendan O’Regan developed the world’s first duty free shop there in 1947, a concept ahead of its time in the aviation world, and one quickly replicated in airports across the globe.

As Shannon Group noted last year when unveiling a bust of Dr. O’Regan to honour the centenary of his birth, he was “a visionary and innovator who never saw boundaries, just horizons”.

Shannon doesn’t play the same role in the world of travel as it did from the 1940s through to the 1980s, when it was a vital refuelling stopover for transatlantic flights. But Shannon Group is determined to remain a pioneer on a smaller scale, whether that is growing the Shannon Free Zone (also established by Dr. O’Regan), a cluster of businesses that attract foreign direct investment to the region, or enhancing the attractiveness of regional tourism in the Irish mid-west.

The airport itself has been the focus of recent big investment, with around €40 million allocated to a range of customer-focused projects. Among these was the redesign of the airside duty free store, in association with supply partner Gebr Heinemann.

Way back when: Shannon Duty Free in the 1950s

That project saw Shannon Duty Free incorporate many striking features influenced by the west of Ireland. The Irish design store has a living moss wall, art instillations which evoke the cloudy Irish sky and a floor to ceiling display of stone representing west Clare’s attraction, The Burren – and its unique limestone landscape. Local produce, from meats to spirits to Munster rugby jerseys, are highlights of the well-tailored offer.

Shannon Airport Head of Commercial Darren Smyth says: “Our location on the Wild Atlantic way, Ireland’s rugged west coast, provided the inspiration for our Sense of Place project which showcases the very best of quality, authentic products. We launched O’Regan’s food store in honour of our founder, which offers a rich variety of local foods,” he says.

He adds: “Shannon is an iconic duty free store and since independence [from state airports group DAA -Ed] in 2013 we have focused on redeveloping our store over four phases, three of which are complete.” The final phase takes place soon.

The late Dr. Brendan O’Regan talks about the birth of duty free, and the airport as a place for cultural exchange.

Importantly for Shannon Group’s profile within the region and nationally, the new-look Shannon Duty Free store recently scooped two major awards at the 21st Annual Retail Excellence Ireland Awards. It won National Visitor Store of the Year and a place in the Top 5 Stores in Ireland award.

That comes as a boost to the airport commercial team and provides fresh inspiration for the future.

Shannon Airport Managing Director Andrew Murphy says: “The awards reflect the commercial success of the changes we have made in our duty free store and the ambition of the commercial team. In partnership with Heinemann, we have created a superior customer experience and a duty free shop that honours our heritage and reflects our location.”

The Moodie Davitt e-Zine | Issue 253 | 3 December 2018