Duty Free Stores Wellington, the family owned retailer which started as a concession store in Wellington Airport 25 years ago, has been sold to a division of French giant Lagardere.
Run by the Archibald family until the sale, DFSW has stores in Queenstown, Dunedin, Hamilton and Rotorua as well as Gold Coast and Adelaide in Australia.
Although DFSW is headquartered in Wellington, it has had no retail space in the capital since 2009, when Nuance Group, which trades as Regency Duty Free, became the sole-duty free operator at the airport, after a long-running fight.
Outgoing chief executive Grant Archibald said the company began conversations with Lagardere late last year, with the French company outlining its desire to enter the Australasian duty free market.
At the same time the family had concluded the company was likely to need substantial backing if it was to expand further.
''It was the right time for us to sell the business. We had lost our last two tenders, we were struggling with the ability to grow the business, to get us into the next level of airport up, the likes of Cairns or Christchurch or Perth airports,'' Archibald said.
''We felt to get to that next step up we were going to need the backing of a much bigger international player.''
Archibald would not disclose the sales price but said DFSW was generating annual revenues of around $35 million.
The company was founded when Don Archibald, previously an executive at Lion Nathan breweries, and wife Pat, purchased the existing Wellington Airport duty free concession in 1986.
It expanded as low cost flying brought trans-Tasman flight to regional airports across New Zealand, and entered Australia in 1999 when it became the first duty free operator at Gold Coast Airport.
In 2005 it scored a major coup when it won the right to sell duty free at the new Adelaide Airport terminal, beating out Swiss-owned Nuance.
Dag Rasmussen, chairman and chief executive of Lagardere Services said DFSW was a mix of high growth, tourism driven assets and stable origin and destination businesses.
''The purchase of DFSW is an important and exciting step in our development within the Asia-Pacific. It is a physical manifestation of our duty free strategy - a commitment that will see us rapidly evolve our duty free footprint and capabilities in the region.''
- © Fairfax NZ News