Erik Juul-Mortensen, President Tax Free World Association
Known throughout the duty free & travel retail community as the highly professional and erudite President of TFWA, dedicated to the support and development of the industry, few would guess that Erik was once driven by an altogether different ambition: to become the fastest man on two wheels the world – or at least his native Denmark – has ever seen. Here he describes his career, his involvement in the strategic direction of the industry, his concern about current issues affecting its future, and how in his leisure time he harks back still to those youthful ambitions.
Can you sketch the high points of your career and how you first became involved in the duty free industry?
I have been extremely fortunate in my career and there are simply too many high points to list them all. However among them are my many years in international business in Danisco, Danish Distillers, V&S International Brands initially in domestic markets; my two years in Berlin moving from being a long standing Board member to running the business on a day-today business; V&S Absolut Global Travel Retail in charge of global duty free sales of Absolut Vodka and its other fine brands; and finally my five years in charge of Maxxium Global Travel Retail. Here, with an excellent team we created a real difference, every year outperforming the market with growing market share in global duty free and travel retail for the wonderful basket of brands entrusted to us by Beam Global, Edrington Group, Remy Cointreau and V&S.
Two definite high points have been the brands and the people with whom I have been privileged to work and which provided the best possible platform for success.
My first contact with the duty free industry followed two years in the Royal Danish Air Force of which 15 months as a sergeant in the Air Force Police. I joined the Export Shipping Department of Danisco in Copenhagen and a year or two later I was invited to increase my remit by visiting ships chandlers and smaller ferry route operators in Denmark. As it brought a number of new opportunities – and my first company car – I accepted with pleasure!
It was not until 2003 when I was made president V&S Global Travel Retail in Stockholm that I would focus exclusively on duty free and travel retail.
During my time in duty free I have had the privilege to be on the board of the Danish Duty Free Association and ETRF which actually brought a low point for me. In spite of the immense efforts of ETRF and the national associations, intra-EU duty free was abolished in mid-1999. The battle was lost by one vote against from Denmark and that as a result of an internal political compromise in the Danish coalition government.
Another privilege was to be heavily involved in the creation of TFWA in 1984. None of us involved at that time could have predicted the development of TFWA over the last 30 years. At the time we were seven or eight individuals signing on the dotted line which looking back is quite daunting. I have been involved in TFWA ever since. In addition I am a Board member of ETRC and of MEADFA.
What do you consider to be the role of TFWA in the industry?
The role of TFWA is described in our mission statement which can be summarised as supporting the industry, creating a forum for dynamic development and providing it with high-quality exhibitions, worthwhile conferences and workshops, and in-depth market research.
However, I believe the role of TFWA is wider. Through its work it is instrumental in forging close relationships between suppliers and operators and it plays a vital role in representing the interests of its members and the industry as a whole. As an example, TFWA was behind the initiative to create APTRA and assisted in the initial work such as creating articles of association.
TFWA’s commitment to the duty free and travel retail industry is summarised by its motto – by the trade for the trade – which has been unchanged since its inception and I believe is as valid today as it was then. As a non-profit-making organisation with a membership of over 450 companies, including some of the world’s best-known brands and suppliers of premium goods, TFWA’s products and services are focused purely on delivering value to the industry.
What are the criteria by which you judge the success of TFWA events and have the events this year [TFWA AP, China Conference, TFWA WE, and MEADFA] met those expectations?
My mantra is that the existence of TFWA is only justified as long as we keep fulfilling and exceeding the expectations of our members and the industry at large. Personally, I do believe that our events in 2013 have fully lived up to expectations. However, the real verdict lies with our members and the attendees at our events. We cannot rest on our laurels; we must keep evolving, keep pushing ourselves, and it means that the almost 30 years the Association has existed has been a period of constant development and evolution. We spend considerable time asking opinions of our target groups, and after each event we have a thorough debrief where results are measured and improvements discussed. Sometimes these are just small issues, sometimes quite fundamental.
What do you perceive to be the key challenges to the duty free & travel retail industry today?
As an industry we are faced with many challenges. Tobacco, Alcohol, Confectionery are the most immediate that come to mind. However, there are challenges that directly affect all product categories such as the current aviation passenger security regime. Also the so-called ‘One Bag’ issue where ETRC is putting a lot of effort into securing a satisfactory solution. The alternative could have a disastrous effect on the industry should it spread outside Europe and to more airlines. Footfall and penetration must be a constant challenge just as competition from the high-street and the web must be recognised.
In addition, we have challenges that come to us from outside, be they war, regional conflicts, health issues, natural disasters or the current global economic downturn, which have a negative effect on the number of people travelling.
How can brand owners and other stakeholders help to address those challenges?
Be part of a trade association to strengthen the associations which are working with all these challenges and thus share the burden with those who are on-board already. We are all in it together and we should all support the industry we are in. Unfortunately, this is not fully the case today.
What do you consider to be the role of APTRA and the other DF&TR associations and how do you foresee their development in the light of the creation of the DFWC?
I believe the role of APTRA is clearly defined in supporting the industry in the very important Asia Pacific region dealing with the challenges known and new. APTRA has a lot on its plate, and I think it is vital that the work continues to be very targeted with clear priorities. We must not be diverted by ’nice to do’ things and keep concentrating on ‘must do’ things.
Could you tell us a little about your personal life, your leisure activities and your family?
I believe most people are aware by now, although I am sometimes surprised, I am married to Sarah Branquinho, who is Business Relations & External Affairs Director at World Duty Free Group, President of ETRC and UKTRF which, however, does not mean that we only talk shop.
We both love walking, travelling for leisure and reading and now with all children having left the nest we are both hoping there will be more time for all these things. So far it mostly remains a hope! In addition we are both involved in a small charity, The Lotus Flower Trust, where Sarah is chairman and I a Trustee. It is not a big charity, which means that everybody has to take a very active part. In the five years we have existed we have built 21 schools, orphanages or homes in remote villages in India and through this improved the lives of hundreds of children and women. Both Sarah and I have spent considerable time in India working on some of the projects, sometimes under quite difficult circumstances. We are both very passionate about the work the charity does – you only need to see the smiles on the faces of children in their new school or home.
Could you explain the reference to speed on two wheels?
Well, it is correct that in my youth I was a very ambitious bicycle rider first on road and subsequently on track. Cycling was my big passion and although my parents were very supportive of my sport they were concerned about the time spent on a bicycle instead of doing school work. Two to three hours every day was the norm apart from Saturday when you rested and prepared your gear for the race on Sunday. This became too much and I then changed to competion on track. With race days twice a week and much shorter distances, training was much more concentrated and better for studies. An additional advantage was that prizes on track consisted of vouchers which you could exchange for cycling gear and other things. My first ever B&O stereo set was bought with vouchers I won – infinitely better than silver-plated cups! I still have a box full of these somewhere in our attic! Today, when time permits, I cycle for fitness and pleasure.