USA. DFASS Group and retail developer CBI Retail Ventures (together with DBE partners MDT Strategic Ventures and Charles Bush Consulting) have inaugurated one of the largest, most eye-catching and innovative duty free stores in the Americas, at Dallas Fort Worth International (DFW) Airport Terminal D.
The stunning TRG Duty Free store spans 19,000sq ft (1,765sq m) over two levels and brings together forward-thinking design, spectacular artworks, an ambitious level of digitalisation, powerful brand executions and local flavour.
“This is so much more than a store, it’s an experience” – Dallas Fort Worth Airport CEO Sean Donohue
Dallas Fort Worth Airport Executive Vice President Revenue Management Ken Buchanan said: “I’m excited to celebrate the opening of TRG Duty Free. This is a milestone for DFW; it advances the airport and elevates the customer experience.
“We have talked about our vision of connecting the world, and we have done that. Now our vision moves to one of ‘travel transformed’. That means providing our customers with a first-class travel experience, where DFW becomes the airport of choice. There are a lot of airports in the US and a lot of ways to enter the country. We want DFW to be the favoured point of entry for travellers and we are well on the way.”
“The board charged us with creating ‘wow’ moments. We put out to the industry that we wanted something different, something transformative and something our customers could enjoy. TRG Duty Free has delivered.” – Dallas Fort Worth Airport Vice President Concessions Zenola Campbell
Dallas Fort Worth Airport CEO Sean Donohue added: “This is so much more than a store, it’s an experience. This project has enabled us to raise our game and underlines our vision to make this more of a global airport.”
The outlet houses state-of-the-art Moët Hennessy and Diageo boutiques, the first Armani Exchange store inside an airport and the first Ulysse Nardin duty free watch boutique at a North American airport, among other highlights.
Leading brands showcased include Estée Lauder, La Mer, Dior, Lancôme, Prada, Hermès, Ralph Lauren, Carolina Herrera, Paco Rabanne, Gucci, Marc Jacobs, Bvlgari, IWC, Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, Armani, YSL, Chanel, Burberry, D&G, Omega, Tom Ford, Calvin Klein and Hugo Boss. Strong local brands highlighted include TX Whiskey, buckle maker Bohlin and Askinosie chocolate.
The retail partners, alongside Dallas Fort Worth Airport and American Airlines, hosted a launch event on Thursday night to showcase the store. The Moodie Davitt Report was in attendance alongside senior executives from DFASS, CBI Retail Ventures, minority partners, the airport company, airline, brand owners and local media.
“We wanted to make a big statement for the duty free industry in this region. The airport was adamant that it wanted a new style of duty free environment, moving away from the mundane.” – DFASS Founder, Chairman and CEO Benny Klepach
Benny Klepach, Founder, Chairman and CEO of fast-growing Miami airport and airline travel retailer DFASS, and CBI Retail Ventures CEO Steve Flory partnered to form the TRG Duty Free joint venture, which has a 12-year duty free contract at the airport. Klepach previously owned and operated (with DBE minority partners) Buckaroo Duty Free, TRG Duty Free’s predecessor at the airport.
Klepach told The Moodie Davitt Report that the TRG Duty Free store sets a new benchmark for North American travel retail. He said: “We wanted to make a big statement for the duty free industry in this region. The airport was adamant that it wanted a new style of duty free environment, moving away from the mundane. Importantly, DFW Airport was willing to offer proper terms and rent structures to allow us to invest heavily.”
He hailed the four-way partnership that ensured the project could be realised.
“We had willing partners here. That included our retail joint venture, the airport, American Airlines and the vendor community. We deliver and here we have lived up to our commitments. When you promise something this big you need the trust factor with the airport. Also, the quality of the brands on offer and their executions underlines the relationships we have in the industry.
“Some other competitors run their concessions like hedge funds, following a formula rather than investing in the industry. We wanted to break that paradigm here. DFW is very progressive about doing things big and doing them right. That allowed us to take a long-term view.
“This is the largest airport duty free store in North America in the fourth-busiest airport in the USA and the eleventh-busiest in the world. It’s also the busiest connection airport between Asia and Latin America.”
Flory said: “This is a very special store at a very special airport. It is all about enhancing the traveller experience and it represents a transformation. It is an amazing compilation of effort from DFW Airport, from TRG Duty Free and from the local and international brands.”
The store is well located across from security control, encouraging travellers to visit as they enter the airside zone. It also creates a flow between entry points to Terminal D that did not exist before, with the core duty free offer complemented by premium dining units and speciality stores nearby.
Alongside a much-enhanced brand offer, the walls of the store are adorned with striking art pieces from renowned sculptor James Surls.
In addition, two free, public luxury lounges on the mezzanine level provide a club-like atmosphere to travellers. These house seating clusters, charging stations, over 50 iPads with interactive apps and elevated work stations. Looking to the future, the iPads offer an opportunity for customers to pre-order for gate delivery and even for home delivery where possible.
In the main store, tasting bars are integrated into retail for product sampling and demonstrations, while VIP concierge service stations provide information and speciality services.
Dallas Fort Worth Airport Vice President Concessions Zenola Campbell said: “The space where this store now stands was void in the past. We had a vision of how to transform DFW to make it special. The board charged us with creating ‘wow’ moments. We put out to the industry that we wanted something different, something transformative and something our customers could enjoy. TRG Duty Free has delivered. The airport and all of our partners can feel very proud of this entire project.”
The high degree of digitalisation – including double-height screens visible throughout the terminal – is a particular highlight of the environment.
The partners have invested US$2 million in digital displays, control systems and interactive technology with multilingual content. A semi-circular “immersive promotional pod”, filled with floor-to-ceiling seamless digital monitors, displays videos, advertisements and communicates brand launches.
Flory said: “For us it was important that we could control everything inside our lease line, including digital, which is a huge aspect of how we communicate here. When you have millions of people passing your space every month, you have a big opportunity but you have to communicate effectively.
“We can alter messages at a moment’s notice and target particular flights, whether they are going to Asia or South America or anywhere else. There is also nothing in the world like our immersive promotional pad. It is amazing. The brands are very eager to use that space for their launches.”
On the overall environment, he added: “The typical duty free retailer doesn’t do architecture on this scale. We have art, beautiful lounges, digital opportunities that allow us to sell brands, and elements that are not in other airports.
“Once people understand that the global brands are here, supplemented by the local influence, in an iconic environment, then they will spend. This is not a short-term vision; you only move the needle if you take a long-term view.”
On the attraction of the environment for major brands, and their contribution to the project, Klepach noted: “The brands really stepped up here. They believed in DFW Airport, in American Airlines, in our ability to deliver on the retail side and to deliver theatre. And this is what the leading brands will require from every airport they go to in future. This store raises the bar and sets a new benchmark.
“We see that some luxury brands are shutting in the metropolitan areas and the airport is where you will find the iconic brands in future.”
He added: “Moët Hennessy and Diageo both felt strongly about setting new standards. They wanted to make it clear that this is the benchmark for them as vendors and what they expect from their concessionaire client base. Other brands want to join them.”
The Moët Hennessy boutique is one of many stand-out aspects of the store. There are interactive elements showcasing the offer on the back walls and a tasting table for new products. The store houses a stunning ‘organ’ display for Hennessy Paradis Imperial, which is made from ten of the best eaux-de-vie from a selection of 10,000; travel retail exclusives such as James Hennessy and the limited edition Hennessy XO Marc Newson, a partnership with the influential designer. A strong Glenmorangie range features travel retail exclusives, there is a selection of Belvedere vodkas, while the Champagne offer includes Veuve Clicquot (hugely popular in the USA) Dom Pérignon and Moët & Chandon.
Commenting on the importance of local flavour, Klepach noted: “We wanted to say something strong about Texas products so we have many local brands. ‘Texas big and Texas proud’ was a statement we wanted to make with those brands.”
Flory said: “There can be no duty free without global brands but we’re in Texas too. We knew that people wanted indigenous products. All credit to Benny for ensuring we could blend the international brands with the best of local.”
On how the store is resonating with travellers, Klepach added: “It has had a big impact so far. There are people flying domestically who come from other terminals just to see this store. And they are buying tax paid goods themselves.”
Travel Retail Group LLC President Jon Potash said: “I think a lot of airports will see this and it will affect how they plan retail and even their overall footprint. This will set the standard for many years to come in the Americas.
“The overall impact is strong. The brand personalisations have been executed wonderfully well. The additional opportunity for brand exposure is great. It’s a retail space, a luxury space, a relaxing space and it’s a branding opportunity.”
The Moodie Davitt Report also spoke to the minority partners in the retail joint venture.
MDT Strategic Ventures President Mario Trevino said: “We wanted to create a ‘wow factor’ and we have achieved that. This store brings the kinds of products that the international traveller wants. It has transformed duty free in the USA with the line-up, the quality, the Sense of Place and the strong local element. We as partners are very excited about this new store.
“We are confident that the traveller will see the value of shopping at the airport, I was one of directors here previously and we have long said that we wanted DFW to be the airport of choice. Now we have that.”
Charles Bush, representing Charles Bush Consulting, added: “If you look around you see what can be done with imagination, creativity and hard work. DFW needs to be applauded, so too TRG and DFASS, for bringing in the diversity component in Mario and I. It’s fantastic. We take a lot of pride in this store. Retail is close to my heart and we are proud to showcase Texas with local whiskies, vodkas, chocolates and other brands.”
Other key contributors to the launch of TRG Duty Free include Vancouver-based SmartDesign Group. Director Nick Baker said: “This a huge difference to what went before. This kind of duty free store doesn’t exist elsewhere in North America.
“The airport wanted world class and spectacular, and that is what they have got. We wanted to create an immersive environment, one that drew attention from security across the way. It’s a focal point of the entire terminal.”
Klepach concluded: “This is a very important project for us and shows other airports what we are capable of. This store makes a statement of what brand owners and airports will require in the future and what airport retail should become.
“We’re proud of what we have delivered for DFW. Dallas as a city will expand and attract more and more people. It’s a hub for American and will have around 75 million passengers in 2018, so it represents a great opportunity. The airport will continue to grow, and we will grow with them.”