Paraguayan duty free operator Bright Star Duty Free had a tough year in 2009, but the Asunci?n Airport-based operator has been surprised at how fast the business has come back with sales 'well up' in
the last quarter and continuing to perform in the first month of this year.
General Manager Ignacio de Barros said last year's recovery from the H1N1 crisis was remarkable, as he explained: ‘June was an OK month, but July and August were really bad with the airport almost empty of passengers. September improved towards the end of the month and we began to see the Brazilians and Argentines travelling again. It was interesting to see the airport busy again.
‘The positive mood was contagious – the sales people started to sell again. They became happier and they started to sell more. As it turned out the last quarter was solid and the start of the year has also been pretty good.’
He said that the H1N1 virus, combined with the uncertain economic situation, badly affected sales in the first three quarters leading to a 40% decline. However, he estimates that the good sales performance in the last quarter helped mitigate the sales decline to just -20% for the full year.
Besides the lower passenger numbers at Asunci?n International Airport, the overall operation was also negatively impacted by a number of logistical and organizational problems at Tam Mercosur, Bright Star's inflight duty free concession, which saw a drastic fall in sales last year.
More happily, sales in Bright Star's arrival and departure shops did recover in the last quarter, with a 5% sales increase in the period.
De Barros said: ‘There was a definite change in mood in the passengers in the last quarter of last year and sales were well up on the same period in 2008. Traffic levels were more or less in line with the same quarter 12 months ago, but one year ago the passengers had already stopped buying in the stores – they seemed to be thinking about the economic crisis before there was a real crisis.
‘They were also affected by the unstable exchange rate and although duty free prices were still a good deal, they just stopped buying.’