October 6 2020  |  Retailers

DFA's Leon Falic looks to a strong future

By Hibah Noor

The Falic brothers, from left, Jerome, Leon and Simon at the US embassy opening in Jerusalem last year

Global powerhouse Duty Free Americas (DFA) has entered the cruise line business with a new ship chandling operation called UETA Ship Supply.

“We’re going to be expanding in that business as much as we can, putting in bids, looking at different opportunities,” Leon Falic, President of Duty Free Americas, tells Americas Duty Free.

The Miami-based company entered the cruise sector three months ago as part of a diversification strategy. Mark Fine has been appointed to head the business, which will supply product to the ship stores and offer enhanced services.

“We’re based out of Miami and we feel that it’s not like a big change for us,” explains Falic. “We thought about it for a while, but it hasn’t been something we’ve elaborated on. We’re in every type of business: the border business, the distribution business, the duty free side, the travel retail side, we have some of our own brands, we have e-commerce, so we thought that one of the businesses we haven’t been in is the cruise business. We felt it was an opportunity to participate and there are a lot of other players as well. We’ll try to see what we can do there.”

In a further development, DFA has been extending its operation in different areas. In past months, the company has opened a few stores on the borders, and took the opportunity of the pandemic pause to improve some of its existing stores.

The company’s e-commerce business has been “very strong” because of the new retail dynamic triggered by the crisis. Elsewhere, it is continuing to invest in its operations. “Some of our businesses are suffering and some are benefiting. Obviously more are suffering than benefiting but we never stop [investing],” says Falic.

Expanded selection

Among the divisions that have benefited is the border business, because many people are going on road trips, Falic reports. “If you look at any destination with national parks, they are all full; the border is packed with people crossing back and forth. You’re in another country just by driving in your car. Since those stores are open, we’ll be able to capture that business. The borders have been a pleasant surprise. We’ve been very well invested in that business for a long time and it’s helped us manage through the crisis. It’s been very important to us.”

DFA has border businesses in the US, in Venezuela on the Colombian border, and on the Panama/Costa Rica border, as well as in Uruguay. In addition, a new business on the Brazilian side of the Uruguayan border has not yet opened.

DFA has strengthened the stores’ inventory with a bigger selection. At the same time, the operator is ensuring that the consumer feels safe while shopping and that the correct health protocols are in place in terms of store cleaning, alcoholic gel provision, and social distancing.

For a full report on DFA, look out for our Virtual Travel Retail Expo next week.

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