Conn. firm moving to Md.

World Duty Free selects Glen Burnie for its headquarters

January 20, 2001|By Meredith Cohn | Meredith Cohn,SUN STAFF

World Duty Free Americas Inc., one of the largest providers of tax-free cigarettes, liquor and gifts to airport travelers, will move its headquarters from Connecticut to Anne Arundel County, economic development sources said yesterday.

No one at the company could be reached for comment, but those familiar with the deal said 35 to 50 executives will relocate to Maryland as the Ridgefield, Conn., operation is consolidated into the Glen Burnie operation, where about 260 workers staff a warehouse and offices.

The company, a subsidiary of British airport operator BAA PLC, operates more than 200 duty-free, news and gifts, and specialty shops at airports, and at the U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada. World Duty Free has retail outlets at Baltimore-Washington International Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport.

The company also supplies merchandise to foreign diplomats in New York and Washington, and to passengers on cruise ships.

"One of our marketing goals is to attract headquarters to Anne Arundel, so we're very excited about this," said Alexis Henderson, a spokeswoman for Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp., who confirmed the company's move.

Henderson said headquarters jobs tend to be well-paid and that there are expansion prospects.

The Greater Baltimore Alliance and the state's Department of Business and Economic Development assisted in luring the company, but a spokeswoman for the department said she would not disclose the incentives that were offered because the deal is not considered final.

Ioanna T. Morfessis, the alliance's president and chief executive officer, said, "Grouping their strategic functions -- headquarters and distribution -- here speaks volumes about the mid-Atlantic region and the greater Baltimore location as a business operating environment."

World Duty Free chose the Glen Burnie site over its other office sites in Miami, New York and San Antonio.

The company's Web site said World Duty Free is breaking out of the traditional duty-free mold of selling only liquor, tobacco and fragrances by offering such things as brand-name leather products, sunglasses, jewelry and confections.

Generally, the duty-free label means the products are sold without taxes, allowing the retailer to sell for less to consumers, who must take purchases outside the country where they are bought. Limits are often placed on the amount that can be brought into another country.

The company says it reaches nearly a million travelers from around the world every day through its 90 stores at 15 airports in the United States, Puerto Rico and Bermuda; more than 30 stores along the U.S. border with Canada, which are known in many locations as AMMEX Tax and Duty Free Shops; more than 30 store along the U.S. border with Mexico, which are known as UETA; and shops for diplomats and cruise ships, which operate under the names Samuel Meisel and Co. Inc., Lipschutz Bros. Inc. and Carisam International Corp.

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