The Moodie View: Why the MEADFA Awards need a rethink

An occasional new column in which, as the title suggests, The Moodie Davitt Report Founder & Chairman Martin Moodie expresses his personal view on sector developments.

In an industry almost overrun with awards of various merit and integrity, the announcement of a new awards platform by the Middle East & Africa Duty Free Association (MEADFA) will probably pass without much comment. But to me the concept needs a rethink.

The aim of the awards – i.e. to recognise “innovative, dynamic, world-class travel retail specialists” in the region – is exemplary. Five categories (Best Retailer; Best Marketing Strategy; Sustainability and CSR; Customer & Supplier; Lifetime Achievement) cover a broad range of disciplines and practices in our industry.

So far, so good. But I’m not sure about what happens next. Companies will self-nominate (fair enough) with entries then judged by the award committee. And there lies the big work-on in my opinion. The committee comprises the following highly professional and astute executives:

• Bernard Creed (Dubai Duty Free) – Chair
• Sherif Toulan (MEADFA President and International Duty Free Trading & Agencies)
• Isabel Zarza (MEADFA Vice President and Dufry)
• Philip Haine (MEADFA Board Member and JTI)
• Micheline El Ammar (MEADFA Operations Manager).

All top-class professionals, whose integrity is unquestionable. But if these awards are to have real merit, should retailers really be judging retailers? After all, two of the committee hail from two of the region’s (and world’s) biggest retailers, Dubai Duty Free and Dufry.

Both without question would be strong candidates for success in the Best Retailer category given the following judging criteria: “Recognises organisations that have demonstrated excellence across their business, continue to innovate in providing outstanding customer service and have provided a notable contribution to the development of travel retail in the region.”

By adopting this judging methodology, MEADFA has put itself in a no-win situation. Can you imagine Dubai Duty Free and Dufry not entering? Such awards (as Frontier success has demonstrated time and again down the years) have real marketing value. But if either retailer wins, what are the optics of that?

[As an aside, what about Qatar Duty Free? The Hamad International Airport is currently not a member of MEADFA, but without question is one of the world’s most innovative and successful travel retailers of the past two and a half years. Years that have otherwise hardly been synonymous with either innovation or success in the channel. UPDATE: The awards are open to non-members we can confirm.]

This is not a crack at MEADFA. The association does an important job in defending and advancing the industry’s interests in the region. It also seeks to raise standards of professionalism (witness its successful training schemes of recent years). The awards may help raise much-needed finance (presumably there will be some form of entry fee and perhaps some form of sponsorship) and can help recognise and reward excellence.

But both the judging approach and some of the categories need a rethink. ‘Best retailer’? Best avoided.

Transparency footnote: The Moodie Davitt Report hosts awards: 1) The long-established Airport Food & Beverage (FAB) Awards; 2) The FAB Superstars Awards and TR Superstars Awards, both of which recognise the critical role of front of house and behind the scenes staff; and 3) The Moodies, now in their ninth year as travel retail’s only social & digital media awards

We believe in certain principles:
• No retailer or F&B operator can sponsor or judge awards pertaining to either sector; nor sponsor them.
• No entrant should be approached for advertising related to pre-event publications.

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