How did a small country like Ireland become a duty free giant? A little story from tax free to travel retail marketplace

The establishment of the first airport duty free shop at Shannon in 1947 by the Irish is the monumental event that marks the start of the duty free business as it is known today.

The legal basis for international air travel was laid down in the 96 articles drawn up by the International Civil Aviation Organisation at the Chicago Convention of 1944 which covered every aspect of air travel from reciprocal landing rights to a call (art 37) for the adoption of "International standards and recommended practices dealing with Customs".

Shannon had shown the way thanks to the brainchild of a local man with a very broad perspective, Brendan O'Regan. His connection with aviation and travel started on the catering service. While the aircraft took on gasoline, the passenger took on dinner, cigarettes, liquor and souvenirs before crossing the Atlantic to New York. 

Irish influence on the duty free industry has continued to be remarkably far-reaching for a small nation. Irishmen have consistently produced innovations in trading that have subsequently been copied by others.

Today, the travel retail marketplace Hi Duty Free - - allows to match frequent flyers who share their boarding pass with at home duty free shoppers who do not travel. Offering the opportunity to buy a luxury products at a considerable saving on the domestic prices was a great idea of Brendan O'Regan who launched mail order in 1954 ! 

O'Regan produced a catalogue for people who were not travelling through Shannon. The US and Canadian clientele who made up 90% of the customers in the two airport shops were very familiar with mail-order shopping and with range displayed in the airport at prices undercutting the North American downtown market.

From 1947 when the Shannon free zone was formed to the present, the duty free industry grew only with air traffic but no dedicated innovations. In more recent times, the most important sign is the fall-off in duty free sales to frequent flyers. But that is another matter and a new post.

Have a fighting spirit and an innovative flair.