Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

A Shopping Spree at Borders Three

Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

A Shopping Spree at Borders Three

Article excerpt

FOR YEARS, TWO WORLD-class attractions have lured tourists to South America's famed "Triple Frontier," the place where Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay meet: the majestic Iguacu Falls and Binacional Itaipu, the world's largest hydroelectric dam.

These days, a third attraction vies for attention as tourists stream across the border from Brazil into Argentina: Puerto Iguazu Duty-Free.

Over a thousand people a day visit the sprawling border shop--which covers nearly an acre on a huge tract of land adjacent to the Tancredo Neves International Bridge and just before Argentine customs.

Some shoppers are drawn by the building's futuristic architecture; others are simply looking for bargains on name-brand perfumes, cosmetics, liquor, and other luxury goods. Either way, the venture has clearly been a winner for London Supply, the Argentine company that owns the bustling duty-free concession.

"Currently, we're living in a paradise," says London Supply's commercial director, Francisco Heredia Lafuente. Adds store manager Marcelo Beisso: "It's like a pilgrimage here. During Holy Week, there's a line of buses waiting to enter our parking lot. One day last year, we received fifteen hundred people in three hours."

Puerto Iguazu Duty-Free's outer structure is graced by a dozen fountains ringing the entrance. Passing via black marble steps through an enormous foyer, tourists are greeted by an Argentine government tourism office, a Telecom Argentina kiosk, and an Internet station that resembles the lunar module.

Inside, a soaring white ceiling encompasses eight distinct departments ranging from electronics to liquor to accessories. Along one high wall, ten clocks show the current time in Puerto Iguazu, Cape Town, Calcutta, St. Tropez, Phuket, San Francisco, and other randomly chosen cities. In the middle of all the action sits a cafe-bar with mahogany floors, under a huge video screen that plays music videos all day long.

Heredia says that, thanks to an unforeseen jump in regional tourism, London Supply has nearly recouped its $12 million investment in the border store only three years after its inauguration.

"The recovery of the Argentine market happened faster than we expected, and mainly for two reasons," he says. …

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