It’s now more than three and a half years since Top Brands International won the Asuncion tender to operate duty free in Paraguay’s biggest airport in December 2019. After beating off competition from La Petisquera (Mannah) and Golden Duty Free, the company was looking forward to being the exclusive retailer at Silvio Pettirossi Airport – and then COVID derailed the plans.
Top Brands had taken over the Bright Star concession in 2017 and with the new win had planned to open a 1,000 sq. meter walk-through store in the departures area, just after the immigration and security checkpoints.
Yeison Betancur, Latin America and Caribbean Retail Director for Top Brands International, spoke with TMI about how the company was finally able to complete one of its most ambitious projects in Latin America.
“When the COVID 19 pandemic hit South America, we had already started construction work at the airport. Obviously, the closure of the airport put a stop to any construction work that was happening, and we had to put a stop to our immediate plans,” Betancur explains.
When the Paraguayan government began to relax restrictions and reopened the airport, Top Brands was able to restart the project, but was faced with myriad challenges.
The project was badly affected by delays in the arrival of shop furniture, fittings, and fixtures, including the huge upturn in the logistical cost of getting the new furniture to Paraguay.
“But we had to pay these costs so that we could finish the whole operation. Our objective to build a great Luryx store in Paraguay was clear and we followed our timetable to have the shop ready for the day that flights restarted, and the airport became operational once again,” says Betancur.
The company had a soft opening in May 2022 when the airport restarted normal operations and by November, the shop was complete with all the latest technology and the personalized furniture from its strategic customers like MAC, Pandora, and Chanel among others, according to Betancur.
“We were pleased to see that all shoppers loved the new store from the beginning. The Luryx store in Silvio Pettirossi airport is one of the most modern duty free stores in the region. The store has a very innovative design, the very latest technology, great screens, and a great sound system. It has everything that creates a unique shopping experience for the customer,” he says.
The walk-through store has been designed with personalized attention in each zone and with a unique experience in each category area.
“We want the walk through the store to be enjoyable and different. There are plenty of wide spaces where shoppers can combine the emotion of traveling and shopping in comfort and can move around the store with carry-on bags without banging into the displays. Apart from this, we have very well qualified shop personnel who are able to offer exceptional service to ensure the very best shopping experience,” assures Betancur.
Categories beyond perfumes and liquor
Fragrances and alcohol are the two most important categories throughout the region but Betancur says that the Luryx store in Asuncion offers the traveler “a whole lot more.”
“We have a superb offer in makeup and skin care – we have a great range of accessories, and we have a huge selection of chocolate and sweets,” he says. “These categories are showing impressive growth and are in high demand from our travelers. We also have a growing range of luxury and lifestyle brands, and this makes us stand out from other retailers in the region.”
The store’s most important customers from outside the country are travelers from Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina.
“Clearly, Paraguayans are the biggest single group. However, it is fair to say that our whole selection of products and categories are targeted to these four nationalities,” says Betancur.
Slow but optimistic recovery underway in Paraguay
The recovery has been slow in the southern part of Latin America. In Paraguay the recovery has been slower than in other countries as the return of its main travel partners has also been slow. International traffic numbers are still more than 20% below 2019. (see chart)
“We are optimistic with regard to the short-term future. We have new airlines, other airlines who operated before have returned and we have seen that some airlines already operating are looking to increase frequencies. We are happy to report that consumption is increasing ad demand is growing in line with, and sometimes in excess of, our expectations,” he says.
Looking ahead – arrivals stare and a new brand
Luryx is continuing to grow where it is already present, and is continually looking for new opportunities, says Betancur.
“Only this month DINAC, the Paraguayan airport authority, has confirmed to us the exact location of the arrivals store at Silvio Pettirossi, and we have our team working on the final designs and plans and we hope to commence construction shortly.”
Top Brands also says that it is developing some new projects and will continue to expand throughout the region. It also has plans to open new single brand and multi-brand stores in the Caribbean and in South America as it looks to consolidate its position as one of the leading retailers in Latin America.