Panamanian company Top Brands International continues to power ahead with its expansion strategy in the Americas, and announces an important new retail concession contract with the owners of the A.H.Riise Mall in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
Danny Yohoros, President of Top Brands International, tells TMI that his company will be operating more than 6,000 sq. feet of retail space in St. Thomas’ iconic A.H.Riise Mall beginning in April.
“Top Brands continues its expansion into the Caribbean, and is now taking over the duty free business in St. Thomas on Main Street in the historic A.H.Riise Mall. We are in a wonderful location right next to the Rolex Boutique and will be opening five stores,” says Yohoros.
“Two of the stores are duty free, one of which will be exclusively for fragrance and cosmetics and the other a multi-category store carrying liquor, tobacco, accessories, etc. The third store is a Swarovski Boutique, and another is a Chanel Beauty Boutique, which will carry Chanel cosmetics and skincare. We will announce what will be in the fifth store soon, as we are currently in negotiations to fill it,” says Yohoros.
The stores are located within Charlotte Amalie’s beautifully restored 19th century Danish warehouses.
“The Mall – which is located in a series of beautifully restored 19th century Danish warehouses in downtown Charlotte Amalie –is very beautiful and a destination in itself. We are very excited to be entering this market,” he says.
Yohoros plans to open the stores for business in April and says that his team has carefully studied the St. Thomas tourists and will be marketing strongly to the cruise passengers that visit the island. His staff will fine-tune the product selection to best serve this customer.
“We expect to do many activities to appeal to the cruisers, and bring the right product mix to this passenger,” he says.
Filippo Cassinelli, one of the owners of the A H.Riise Mall said: “We look forward to welcoming Danny Yohoros and his dynamic company into our duty free market! In addition to the categories of liquor, tobacco, fragrance and cosmetics, Mr. Yohoros will bring other merchandise categories not currently represented in the market to the historic and heavily trafficked A.H.Riise Mall.”
Some of the other tenants in the Mall are the A.H.Riise Rolex boutique, Diamonds International, Little Switzerland, Fresh Produce, Belgian Chocolate, Cafe Amici and Hot Look Sunglasses.”
Top Brands International may be entering the USVI market at a very opportune time, as Cassinelli tells TMI that a number of significant infrastructure developments have been approved that could spell good news ahead as St. Thomas recovers from the devastating impact of two category 5 hurricanes that hit the Virgin Islands in September of 2017.
“The Main Street Renovation Project (a federally funded historic enhancement project) has commenced work. The $12 million dollar infrastructure project is intended to revitalize the town; burying utility and phone lines, adding blue bit stone sidewalks, a brick paved Main Street roadway, historic benches and lighting, along with landscaping to provide shade,” he says.
The shops at the A.H.Riise Mall should soon benefit also from long-awaited Water Taxi service.
“The government has chosen a Water Taxi operator and announced this news at the Florida SeaTrade convention last week. The government of the VI responded to the overwhelming demand from the cruise lines for this service to enhance the visitor experience with scenic boat rides from both cruise ship docks to the historic shopping district. The Water Taxi operator should be in place by the late fall of 2018.This amenity will also be available to local residents and hotels guests,” Cassinelli continues.
In more major news announced during SeaTrade, the Virgin Islands Port Authority confirmed that it intends to build a third dock in Crown Bay to berth an additional Oasis class vessel. “With the trend in the industry to bigger ships the VI government wanted to create additional dock capacity. Currently the Port of Charlotte Amalie can only dock one Oasis class ship at Crown Bay. The surrounding area will also be renovated and enhanced under a master plan produced in cooperation with the cruise lines,” says Cassinelli.
The A.H.Riise stores are just the latest new markets for Top Brands International. Since late in 2016, the company acquired duty free businesses in the Bahamas and Tortola as well. “This latest concession in the Virgin Islands gives us a much bigger footprint in the Caribbean,” he tells TMI.
Top Brands’ expansion has progressed in Latin America as well. Over the past year, the company acquired Bright Star Duty Free in Asuncion and won the airport concession in El Salvador.
Family-owned Top Brands International, a mainstay in Panama and Colombia, has been in business marketing and managing prestigious international brands for over 40 years, and currently operates in locations across 14 countries in the Americas.
Top Brands acquisition of the duty free operations of Paraguayan travel retailer Bright Star further strengthened the company’s presence in the airport travel retail channel in the region. Bright Star is the main duty free retailer at Aeropuerto Internacional Silvio Pettirossi in Asuncion, Paraguay.
Yohoros tells TMI that the Asuncion business has grown by 20% in the year since the acquisition: “We are doing very well, thanks both to growing passenger traffic and to the fact that we have expanded the product categories that we offer in the store.”
Yohoros also confirms that the Airport Authority has extended the company’s concession contract at the airport.
Top Brands also won the 10-year concession contract to operate 10 duty free and specialty retail stores at El Salvador’s San Salvador International Airport (Óscar Arnulfo Romero International Airport) last year. The concession covers more than 700 square meters of retail space that will carry different categories of merchandise, he says. Top Brands is investing $15 million in the project which includes renovating all of the stores to ensure they deliver a state-of-the-art, upscale offer to their customers.
“We take our business very seriously, making sure that the stores are done in the most professional way.”