Duty Free Americas luxury boutiques usher in a new upscale era at Miami

US. Duty Free Americas has opened four new luxury boutiques at Miami International Airport, writes Lois Pasternak. The stores, from leading brand names Coach, Emporio Armani, Montblanc and Thomas Pink, are helping to transform the shopping experience at Miami Airport.

With the airport’s US$2.94 billion North Terminal operational and nearly completed, passengers near Gates 9 and 10 had an unexpected surprise last Monday morning, with entertainment provided by a classic pianist performing on a grand piano, a pulsating, fashion show featuring the latest ranges from Emporio Armani, and two British ‘royal guards’ who posed for photos with passers-by.

The occasion was the official grand opening of the four luxury boutiques by Duty Free Americas. Each of the four ribbon-cutting ceremonies was witnessed by passengers, airport staff and officials, which included Miami Dade Aviation Director José Abreau, Deputy Directors Miguel Southwell and Ken Pyatt, Assistant Aviation Director Lauren Stover and Chief of Airport Concession Business Development Adrian Songer and his staff, among others.

The Thomas Pink shop is the brand’s first at a North American airport. Visitors were guided through the shop by Thomas Pink’s US Director of Stores, Sonia Proulx, who described the Pink fashion concept and history to the assembled audience.

Adjacent to the new Pink shop is the 1,075sq ft Coach Boutique. The Coach store opened in February and sells leathergoods and men’s and women’s accessories. It is one of only two airport locations for the brand in the US; the second being a DFA-operated store at New York JFK International Airport Terminal 7.

The North Terminal is also home to a 1,020sq ft Emporio Armani boutique, the first free-standing airport shop for the brand in a North American airport. Giorgio Armani Travel Retail Director Carla Guiducci guided visitors through the boutique and directed a red-carpet fashion show that drew a huge crowd of enthusiastic passengers and airport staff to the boutique area.

The 690sq ft Montblanc boutique, which opened in April, features the luxury brand’s sleek new retail concept. It presents an extensive collection of Montblanc watches on one side and writing instruments and other accessories at the opposite end. Rodrigo Fajardo, Brand Manager for Montblanc Travel Retail and Caribbean, along with Montblanc Miami team, welcomed visitors.

DFA Chief Executive Jerome Falic commented: “We are celebrating the official ribbon cutting ceremony of our beautiful new boutiques here at Miami International Airport. Each of these shops is designed to create an innovative and distinctive identity, while at the same time blending in seamlessly with the overall look and feel of this world-class airport. We are also really proud of the fact that these new stores are the very first free-standing boutiques in North America for Emporio Armani and Thomas Pink. And the Montblanc boutique is the first to showcase the company’s new design concept.”

Miami Dade Aviation Department Deputy Director of Business Miguel Southwell added: “It is an honour to be the first North American airport with an Emporio Armani store. We are also the first airport to showcase the new design for Montblanc. And we have the first duty free store for Thomas Pink. On behalf of our aviation family at Miami Dade County we wish [DFA] great success with this impressive collection of stores.”

Chief of Airport Concession Business Development Adrian Songer noted: “The new boutiques in this particular cluster of Coach, Thomas Pink, Montblanc and Emporio Armani speak for themselves. They offer wonderful merchandise, and are a unique high-end opportunity for those who are looking for very fine quality. These boutiques are a ‘wow’ factor.”

Speaking with Travel Markets Insider, Jerome Falic added: “This is a dream come true here in the airport. Miami never really had the luxury brands and boutiques at the level to which we have taken it, compared to all the years past.

“When Miami began rebuilding the airport, brands started looking at the airport more and more. Companies like Montblanc and Pink and Armani, they really want their own stand-alone boutiques. Many brands approached us, but we felt these were the strongest to offer the consumer here in Miami Airport.”

Jerome Falic noted the contributions of DFA’s Accessories and Luxury Director Jerome Blanchard, who has grown the luxury category at Miami Airport by strengthening relations with vendors and introducing emerging brands to the department; and also of Terry Floyd, DFA’s General Manager at MIA.

Discussing the strategy behind choosing a brand such as Thomas Pink, Jerome Falic explained that the brand has a store in Bal Harbour Shops (one of the most luxurious shopping centres in South Florida), which is a very popular destination for the South Americans who visit South Florida. “The Thomas Pink store in Bal Harbour does excellent sales with the South Americas. We had a good feeling that these customers would love the brand here in the airport as well.”

DFA Chairman Simon Falic looked back over the company’s development at Miami International since it won the duty free tender in 2005 – after which some of its rivals said it had overpaid for the concession.

He said: “We exceeded all our expectations. We did put in a high bid, but knowing Miami, and knowing the potential in Miami, we were confident that we would be able to stand behind the bid and also be profitable, and for us to make money and for the airport authority to make money.”

He added: “We brought a lot of product here that you don’t see in any other duty free store in the United States. Besides these boutiques, within our stores you see Victoria’s Secret, you see Vilebrequin, you will see many brands. The biggest customer in MIA airport is the South American customer and we want to make sure that we make the shopping experience here very important and unique, and that these shoppers leave as much money as they can before they go back home or on to another destination.”

The four luxury boutiques were not in the original plan submitted during the MIA RFP, said Falic. “It was the partnership with Miami that gave us the opportunity to open these luxury boutiques. And there were skeptics; financial skeptics. But all the boutiques have exceeded our forecasts.

“Airports, and travel retail, are such a hot area today. We saw the big acquisition that was just done by Dufry and the valuations that are being paid. Private equity is coming into this business, because in travel retail the brands get the exposure – and they get to showcase their brands to a customer much more than they could even in a department store. But there is so much more traffic in these airports, so it is very important for the brands that are successful in travel retail, and who devote themselves to travel retail, to be here to be able to showcase their brands.”

In addition to the four luxury boutiques, DFA recently put the finishing touches to its 12th store at MIA, located in the North Terminal. The 50-gate North Terminal “super concourse” is used by American Airlines as its hub for Latin America and the Caribbean to serve more than 20 million passengers annually.

Currently, DFA operates five duty free locations in MIA’s Central Terminal in Concourses E and F, three locations in the South Terminal in Concourses H and J, and four brand new duty free stores in the North Terminal in Concourse D, in addition to the four free-standing luxury boutiques.

Source : www.moodiereport.com