December 22 2023  |  Industry News

Vinumport Duty Free invests in the future to strengthen border footprint

By Laura Shirk

Vinumport Duty Free's store in Champlain, Quebec

Since its inception, Vinumport Duty Free has worked on giving the shopper a different kind of land border duty free experience with a focus on premiumization. According to Vinumport Duty Free President Stacey Kehr, ownership invests in high-end champagnes, wines and spirits. “We try and step outside of normal northern border duty free and take the store in that direction, but also meet consumer demand. Creating a super-premium boutique atmosphere has been the first line in Vinumport making a name for itself and is the path we’ve edged out,” she says.

When asked about the constantly changing landscape of travel retail and how Vinumport Duty Free stays relevant, Kehr says its take on consumer trends goes hand-in-hand with its focus on premiumization. The company is aware of its existing competition and knows that it can’t have the same selection in stock. “We’re working with our suppliers on allocation and to ensure that even though Vinumport is smaller, we have the opportunity to offer customers on both sides of the border products they wouldn’t see in a domestic setting or at one of our competitors,” Kehr continues.

Right now, the company is in the process of rebuilding some of its locations – instead of simply reopening stores and moving forward post-pandemic. The team understands that there needs to be major investment in the area so it can strengthen its footprint and continue on the duty free journey.

Vinumport Duty Free has the potential to operate six locations at the US-Canada border across upstate New York. It is currently operating a store in Champlain, New York, and opens shops in Mooers and Fort Covington on a seasonal basis. Vinumport Duty Free also has a new building in Chateauguay, which is yet to open. Due to US Customs’ developments, renovation is on hold at Rouses Point and Trout River. Customs is carrying out a multi-million-dollar investment at both crossings, says Kehr. Vinumport Duty Free has received clearance and construction is expected to start immediately after the winter season.

Customer service and capital investment

Along with consumer engagement, Kehr says customer service is key to success. It is important that shoppers see employees from every level of the company on the salesfloor. “You can have a great product selection and a wide range of brands, but if you’re not engaging with shoppers and offering a level of service that ensures repeat customers, it is hard to do well. I feel like as much as you can focus on your margins and your dollars, which are very important, as long as when a person comes in you can give them what they need, it’s a trickle-down effect,” she explains.

Heading into 2024, Vinumport Duty Free is ready to create a fresh look. “For me, to have a smaller, private investor who doesn’t totally understand the duty free business know that we need to invest in the future and rebuild, it’s very exciting,” shares Kehr. Even though the stores won’t offer tons of square footage, the company will absolutely meet the demands of visitors and offer a beautifully designed place to shop.

Vinumport Duty Free also plans to increase existing supplier partnerships in the new year and add to its list. Additionally, it’s always prepared to explore potential growth opportunities on both sides of the border.

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