HONG KONG. DFS Group co-founder and still co-Owner Robert (‘Bob’) Warren Miller was named as the first inductee to the newly established Travel Retail Hall of Fame at The Trinity Forum in Hong Kong last week.

The veteran executive, who founded the company along with Charles (‘Chuck’) Feeney, received a prolonged ovation as he came to the stage to receive the accolade from The Moodie Report Founder & Chairman Martin Moodie.

He told the 400-strong audience (which included DFS Chairman & CEO Philippe Schaus): “Thank you for the recognition, which I appreciate very much.

“It’s been an incredible journey and I am truly blessed to have seen it from the very beginning and to have been a part of it all these years.

“I would dearly like to come back in 55 years and see where we are now but I’m going to leave that to you who are in the audience today and to the future generations that will come because the future really is yours today. It’s been my privilege to be involved in this business from the very early days.”

Bob Miller: “It’s been an incredible journey and I am truly blessed to have seen it from the very beginning and to have been a part of it all these years”

Earlier Moodie announced the Hall of Fame and previewed Miller’s achievements, saying: “It’s curious that in as glamorous and international an industry as travel retail that there’s no Hall of Fame. And we thought that should change. But only if it was done properly. Only if it truly recognised those who had over a significant period of time, played a leadership role, a truly transformative role and even better still a pioneering role. Only such men or women should be in the travel retail hall of fame. And we had to begin with a legend.

“Who can you really say has truly shaped our industry? There are, I would contend, a mere handful and one of them is here today. One of them fulfils the criteria of having played a pioneering role in our business, a leadership role in our business, a game-changing role in our sector over six consecutive decades. And you know what? He’s still doing it.

“In 1962 he and his partner diversified from their previous business of selling duty free liquor and cars to the US Sixth fleet (surely the world’s first home delivery duty free) and opened within the space of months two tiny duty free concessions at Hong Kong’s old Kai Tak Airport and Honolulu Airport respectively.

Above) The Moodie Report Chairman Martin Moodie welcomes Bob Miller to the stage before presenting him with the Travel Retail Hall of Fame recognition (below)

“A small retail company was born, one that would become synonymous with duty free shopping until this very day. It didn’t stay small for long and as the Japanese outbound travel market exploded after the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, so this company – driven largely by this man’s renowned calmness and courage under pressure, unrelenting work ethic and unswerving instinct – became the world’s leading travel retailer – Duty Free Shoppers, later DFS Group.

“The individual we recognise today is truly a towering figure of duty free and travel retail. From a humble background in Depression era America, he would rise to become of the great international entrepreneurs.”

A poignant film was then shown that included archive footage of DFS operations down the years and interviews by Martin Moodie and others with Bob Miller.

Bob Miller shares a lighter moment with DFS Group Senior Vice President General Merchandising Manager, Beauty, Ariel Gentzbourger. Ariel is the daughter of John Gentzbourger, a key figure in the DFS story down the years, particularly with its former distribution business Camus Overseas Ltd.