Last year’s highlight for the Bernabel retail team with its Buquebus fast ferry concession was the arrival of the $150m ‘Francisco’ vessel.
This came complete with a 1,200sq m duty free shop in the last quarter of 2013, which is said to be the biggest duty free outlet on any ferry boat anywhere.
Traditional Buquebus Ferries link the capital cities of Buenos Aires in Argentina with Montevideo in Uruguay, but this new liquid natural gas-powered vessel has already knocked an hour off the journey, leaving two hours and ten minutes for its passengers to shop in its brand new store.
Bernabel Trading General Manager Martin Laffitte says that with a 1.6% increase in sales this overall operation nevertheless performed well last year, considering passenger numbers were flat at around 2.4m for the year due to economic pressures on disposable incomes.
Laffitte said: “Falling passenger numbers in July, August and September led to slower sales and without a doubt it was the worst quarter for quite a few years.
REMARKABLE SALES RECOVERY
“The new vessel boosted the company at the start of quarter four. With the launch of the ‘Francisco’ linking Buenos Aires and Montevideo in October, we saw sales come back and with positive passenger numbers in October, November and December, we recovered the sales we lost in the third quarter and we finished the year in a positive fashion.”
Besides this brand new flagship ferry, Laffitte also confirmed that Bernabel has a store renewal plan for all of the fleet’s other vessels.
“We always have a renewal programme for our stores and we quietly renovate the main stores throughout the year. But we have recently agreed with Buquebus that we will incorporate the best features of the new store on the other boats,” he said.
“Initially we will be begin to adapt the new features sometime this year on the ‘Juan Patricio’ and the ‘Atlantic III’, the two biggest boats in the fleet after the Francisco. The shops are a different size, but we want to ensure that we are speaking the same language on board with common features and a series of elements that the traveller will associate with the other boats in the fleet.”
“This year will be an interesting year, but we will be doing our best to keep our sales at current levels and give the customers who sale on the River Plate the best brands in the categories that they are looking for.”