Miami’s family-owned Foreign Trade Zone company WTDC, which specializes in logistics for spirits for the duty free/travel retail and cruise industries, diversified its business as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
WTDC President & CEO Sean Gazitua tells TMI that this expansion away from its core duty free/travel retail business has strengthened his company and better positioned it for the future.
“The commodity that we handle is spirits for the duty free and travel retail industry and this virus shut it down. In April and May last year there were a hand- ful of spirits cases that left the warehouse. Typically there are tens of thousands of cases. So that was an eye-opener for us that it would be a good idea to diversify a little bit,” says Gazitua.
“Obviously our bread and butter is spirits for the travel retail industry and will continue to be in the future, but 2020 gave us an opportunity to look at our business and diversify.”
WTDC saw a way to both stay busy and contribute to the greater good by handling logistics for needed medical supplies. WTDC assisted companies with the hazardous transportation of hand sanitizer, foreign-to-foreign shipments of COVID-19 test kits, masks, medical equipment, and PPE imports.
“We were able to help companies and countries handle the supply chain management for medical supplies. That was pretty gratifying that we were doing something good during the pandemic and were able to handle business. Our normal pipeline of business froze because we had been focusing on spirits and cruise lines.”
Medical supplies were one of three key verticals WTDC focused on during the pandemic. The other two were the creation of WTDC Chile and logistics for renewable energy.
In October WTDC announced a strategic partnership with Empresas Per- rot Group Inc., a premier Trucking and Logistics Provider in Santiago, Chile to create seamless connectivity for customers across their complementary domestic and international logistics networks in the USA and Chile. WTDC and Empresas Perrot will be exclusive agents within each other’s countries as part of the agreement.
“The Gazituas are Chilenos. We’re from Chile. A partner contacted us to open up WTDC Chile. Empresas Perrot are one of the largest trucking companies in Chile and they wanted to expand internationally. Our family always wanted to open a busi- ness in Chile. Like us, they are a family business, and have been around for 80 years. We started speaking to each other via zoom and we just connected: their family values, our family values, their company culture, our company culture. It just aligned perfectly. As a result, we have really been growing that trade lane from Chile to the USA,” says Gazitua.
Renewable energy is the third vertical WTDC focused on in 2020.
“We identified renewable energy as a good business for the future. We are focusing on solar, hydro, and wind and are providing ocean freight, warehousing, and U.S. Customs brokerage.”
2021: Back to normal?
Even as WTDC has diversified this past year, travel retail/duty free spirits logistics will remain its core business, and Gazitua says there is reason for optimism.
“Now it is closer to normalcy. In 2021, business has begun bouncing back. In November and December last year higher volumes started leaving the warehouse and we saw a spike going up. We thought it was just for the holiday season,” he says.
“But in January, the numbers consistently stayed up and in February the numbers have remained consistent. Now that we are in March, the numbers leaving the warehouse have not gone down. It feels good to see these numbers of cases leaving the warehouse. I feel like we are trending in the right direction. There is some good news out there. There are orders. We are busy and we appreciate it.”
Prior to the pandemic, WTDC was experiencing a record year.
“2019 smashed every other year. January and February 2020 were incredible months. We expected 2020 to be stronger than 2019.”
Gazitua says his family company is prepared for a return to better times.
“We are speaking with companies that are interested in coming into the market. We have the know-how. We celebrated 44 years in business on March 8. We’ve been handling spirits for 15 years for this market. We know the processes specific to this commodity. This is what we know and we are good at it.
“Our competition are these huge multi-national corporations. If you need to have a decision done, you have to talk to your supervisor, the manager, the director, all the way up the ladder. Here if you want to get something done you speak to me and we can get it done right there. We move quickly. I think that is one of the reasons we were able to survive the pandemic. Because we saw this business potentially slowing down and pivoted and started handling medical supplies and renewal energy. But we are here and we are open for business.”
WTDC Health & Wellness Program
WTDC began its health and wellness program in 2017 with the goal of encouraging all its employees to adopt a healthy lifestyle, which promotes improved mental and physical wellness. During the pandemic, WTDC has expanded this program.
“We can make sure our employee morale is high. We’ve implemented a health and well- ness program, with a multi-purpose health and wellness room. We zoom in there, and when we are not using it for zoom it is used for yoga room. We also have a masseuse come every Wednesday to give massages in our special massage room. We even have a prayer/meditation room. We really believe in having a sound mind, sound body, especially in a year like last year. We want to make sure that WTDC is a safe place for our employees. That’s part of being a family business,” says Gazitua.