Duty Free says poor weather, recession hurt Canadian sales

Duty Free International said yesterday that sales at its Canadian border stores have continued to struggle under the weight of poor weather and a deep Canadian recession during the third quarter.

Gerald Egan, the Ridgefield, Conn.-based company's chief financial officer, told investors at Alex. Brown & Sons' Consumer Growth Stocks Seminar in Baltimore that Duty Free's results from the northern border division, previously predicted as between flat and down 10 percent, would come "closer to the the minus 10 side."


Duty Free has a division headquarters and major employment center in Glen Burnie.

The problems to the north would likely be more than offset by solid gains in the airport division, which operates conventional retail and duty-free shops in international airports. That division is expected to post a gain in the neighborhood of 20 percent, Mr. Egan said.


In other remarks, Duty Free Chairman David Bernstein said thecompany sees the proposed North American Free Trade Agreement as a plus for its sales along the Mexican border. He said he expects the agreement to increase the flow of traffic, but does not believe it would significantly affect the difference between U.S. and Mexican prices that makes duty-free shopping attractive.

Mr. Bernstein also said the company is competing aggressively for a "mammoth" deal to operate duty-free and retail shops in Denver's new international airport, which is under construction.

Duty Free executives also reaffirmed the company's interest in expansion in the Caribbean basin, where the company gained a foothold in the San Juan, Puerto Rico, airport earlier this year.

Neither Mr. Bernstein nor Mr. Egan reported any talks regarding a possible acquisition, but in response to questions, Mr. Egan made it clear that Duty Free was intrigued with Little Switzerland Inc., a publicly traded company based in the Virgin Islands, which operates 19 shops on seven Caribbean islands and franchises nine other shops in the Bahamas.