LATIN AMERICA. Asociación Sudamericana de Tiendas Libres (ASUTIL) will hold a virtual conference dedicated to the Latin American border store market in November.

The trade body held the first Encuentro de Frontera event in November 2019 and had been making preparations for holding a physical show in 2020. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, ASUTIL has now confirmed it will hold a virtual conference on 24-25 November.

Announcing the event, ASUTIL Secretary General José Luis Donagaray said the association would, as in 2019, be co-organising the event with CEFSU, the Chamber of Uruguayan Free Shop Operators.

170 delegates gathered in Porto Alegre for the inaugural Encuentro de Frontera event in 2019

The first day of the event (24 November) will feature presentations on the border market. One session will include a presentation by new store operators, giving them a chance to introduce themselves to suppliers.

For the second day (25 November), ASUTIL said it is exploring ways to enable networking between delegates, allowing suppliers and retailers to enhance their relationship.

The association added it will continue to host regular webinars covering the wider Latin American market for its members, but the two-day virtual conference would be open to everyone.

As reported, ASUTIL and International Association of Airport Duty Free Stores (IAADFS) had previously announced the 2021 Summit of the Americas will be conducted as a virtual event on 5-8 April 2021. It is being organised in partnership with The Moodie Davitt Virtual Expo Company as an innovative, user-friendly, and cost-efficient virtual event.

ASUTIL Secretary General José Luis Donagaray (top left) and General Events Coordinator Inés Sisto Patron (middle left) update the trade media on ASUTIL’s activity

At a virtual press conference announcing the virtual show on border stores, Donagaray also updated the media on ASUTIL’s advocacy efforts.

The trade body is working with the Brazilian government to find an alternative to the Serpro service border stores currently have to use to check if customers are eligible to make duty free purchases. Retailers have to pay each time they use the service, which shows them if customers have yet used their monthly duty free allowance; this can account for up to 7% of the final sale.

Donagaray added that the association is calling for harmonisation of the duty free limit for Brazilian border stores. The limit for those entering Brazil via land border is currently US$500, but the limit for those leaving Brazil is US$300. “There is no balance, which is affecting how they do business. There are a lot of new stores that are seeing a recovery from COVID-19, but we need to help the businesses to develop quickly,” he said.