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The Duty-Free Business Must Reroute to China

The Duty-Free Business Must Reroute to China


The pandemic continues to cripple travel-retail companies Lagardère and Dufry. Their next challenge is to get a cut of recovering Chinese spending.


By Carol Ryan
Nov. 9, 2020 7:42 am ET WSJ
Beijing is using the Covid-19 crisis to encourage China’s globe-trotting consumers to spend more back at home. Europe’s stricken duty-free operators have to follow them.

Airport shops are still all but empty. Paris-listed Lagardère said last week that sales in its travel retail division fell 66% over the three months through September, compared with the same period of 2019. Larger Swiss rival Dufry reported an even sharper 80% drop for its third quarter. Both businesses have scrambled to save cash this year by cutting dividends, laying off workers and renegotiating the fees they hand over to airport landlords.

Global passenger numbers won’t bounce back to normal until 2024, according to the International Air Travel Association. Even then, policies introduced by the Chinese government over the summer mean a chunk of global duty-free spending may have permanently rerouted back to China.

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Harvey Yan

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