After nearly four decades as Changi Airport’s longest-running tenant, DFS Group will pull all of its liquor and tobacco stores out of the Singapore airport next June, news that broke this week and left not only Singaporeans, but frequent travellers to the Lion City, stunned.
Regarded by many travellers as among the best duty-free liquor shopping experiences to be found anywhere, bolstered by an excellent tobacco section as well, the imminent closure of DFS stores at Changi will leave a hard-to-fill gap in the world’s best airport. DFS Group, which is not only Changi’s oldest tenant, but also its largest, chose to not participate in the latest tender exercise with the airport, which closed on Monday, August 26.
In a statement to the press regarding the decision, DFS Group Chairman and CEO Ed Brennan cited “changing regulations concerning the sale of liquor and tobacco” in Singapore and “a global context of geopolitical uncertainty” as reasons for pulling out, saying the recent and upcoming changes would result in the business becoming financially unsustainable at Changi.
The Singapore government has indeed tightened limits on duty-free alcohol allowances. Since April 2019, travellers who have spent at least 48 hours out of Singapore are entitled to purchase two litres of spirits, wine, and/or beer, which was down from the previous allowance of three litres.
Additionally, the Ministry of Health is soon to be enforcing stricter control over all tobacco products, which will have to adhere to standardised, plain packaging with enlarged graphic health warnings by July 2020. The regulatory changes have come about as the Singapore government seeks to lower the rates of consumption of alcohol and tobacco, which has led to quite a bit of bitter complaining on social media about Singapore living up to its “nanny state” reputation once again.
Brennan noted that the DFS business had “exceeded all expectations for what travel retail can offer in an airport environment” during its tenure at Changi, an assessment with which many travellers who frequented the DFS shops over the last 38 years, would likely agree, particularly those who visited the outstanding outlet in Changi Terminal 2. Brennan added that the decision was not made lightly, and the statement noted that DFS would continue to operate its perfume and cosmetic outlets in Changi, which will surely come as cold comfort indeed for not only the hundreds of DFS employees who will lose their jobs, but also travellers looking to score an uncommon bottle of duty-free whisky or enjoy the excellent range of complimentary samples DFS always has on offer.
A new tenant is expected to come in when DFS Group’s lease expires in June 2020, but they’ll admittedly have some big shoes to fill. If you’re travelling to or from Singapore between now and next June, be sure to avail yourself a visit to DFS, as the duty-free giant routinely offers exclusive special bottlings and coveted limited edition releases, and that will all come to an end soon.