Duty free stores suffer

Restrictions on carry-on liquids are seriously impacting business for local duty free liquor and perfume stores at Owen Roberts International Airport.

But store representatives were hopeful Friday that some sort of solution could be worked out with the airlines and relevant authorities to alleviate the situation.

‘I think they’ll have to come up with some ways to help us run our business. We sympathise with the situation but I hope soon an action plan is come up with and a workable solution,’ said Retail Operations Manager with Jacques Scott, Paul McLaughlin.

Under US directives, passengers at the Owen Roberts International Airport were not permitted to take liquids (including perfumes and liquors) purchased inside the sterile area on board US bound aircraft. This includes perfumes and liquors. British Airway’s is also complying locally with the US directives.

The duty free stores are under the related sales restrictions until further notice.

Owner of Tortuga Rum Co. Ltd., Robert Hamaty said Friday that business at his airport liquor store has certainly suffered since Thursday morning.

However, the stores are in talks with the Cayman Islands Airports Authority and with the separate airlines, in an effort to permit duty free to be tagged and checked at the gate.

This system has been operating in Jamaica and Barbados for flights to the UK and the US.

Non-US and non-UK bound flights, however, have been accepting liquor and perfumes onboard, for instance, those bound for Honduras, Cuba and Jamaica.

Manager of Jacques Scott Duty Free airport store Helen Chawe said it remained open to 3pm Thursday and then closed.

‘We sold rum cakes, newspapers and cigarettes,’ she said, so revenue was well down.

But customers were understanding of the situation, and there was no conflict over people being refused liquor, she said.

The store remained closed as of Friday morning. Staff from the store had been deployed to various other Jacques Scott locations.

Mr. McLaughlin said they are sincerely hoping it is a short term policy because they have made lots of investment at the airport and have staff to pay. ‘We can cope with a couple of weeks, but after that I wouldn’t like to say,’ he said.

But his personal opinion is that things should change soon, because there is too much money involved globally in the duty free industry.

Kirk Freeport’s Operations and Merchandise Manager Michael Bowman said the company’s airport store does carry a significant volume of perfume in its merchandise.

‘We’re hopeful that this is a temporary measure,’ he said.

However, at least in a perfume store’s case, as the travelling public becomes aware that they cannot buy in the departures lounge at lease they can purchase duty free perfume on-island before they leave, he said.

But, having spoken with other vendors in the cosmetics industry, Mr. Bowman said many of them are very concerned that the restrictions are going to have a significant impact on their businesses.

‘I hope this is a temporary measure, until they lower the security level,’ he said.

Asked if he thought this could be a long term policy, Mr. Hamaty said, ‘It’s quite possible,’ but added that he would expect a scale down in the procedure.

‘Right now if we get permission to check bottles it (the current restrictions situation) wouldn’t have a tremendous effect on business.’

He said that the Tortuga Rum boxes are designed for the very purpose of being carried on airplanes, and are strong.

‘Duty Free globally is a multi billion dollar industry,’ said Mr. Hamaty, ‘which affects not only the liquor market, but cosmetics also’.

Meanwhile, passengers travelling to the UK from any destination are being reminded that carry-on baggage is restricted to eyeglasses, travel documents, a wallet or purse, verified medications, baby food, milk, sanitary items, keys.

These items must be contained in a sealable single, transparent plastic bag.

Every other item must be in customer’s hold luggage, including phones, laptops and books.