If you want to see the globe’s divergent proclivities in all their finely segmented glory, spend some time at the Dubai International Airport. The world’s third busiest air hub, Dubai boasts the most lucrative and perhaps most sophisticated duty-free shop on Earth. Its total retail space is more than one and a half times the size of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and its sales reached $1.6 billion in 2012. With its constantly circulating clientele, Dubai Duty Free is the global retail market collapsed into a few sleek airport terminals.
Dubai Duty Free has recruited 573 Chinese salespeople, dispensed Chinese phrase books to everyone else, and started accepting China’s most popular credit card.