World Duty Free Group, a market leader in the U.K. and Spain, will merge with HMSHost's retail, which operates 240 stores including Simply Books and Authors Bookstores, and has annual sales in excess of $2.7 billion in total. Both companies are part of the group headed by Autogrill S.p.A. The agreement, which was inked last month, will enable WDFG to grow its network of stores by more than 70%, from 325 to 565 retail locations in 21 countries. It will gain 32 new locations in the U.S., including the Empire State Building and the Houston Space Center. Host will continue to operate food and beverage.
“We anticipate that the integration of HMSHost’s retail operations into World Duty Free Group will take about one year,” said Sarah Cody, speaking on behalf of WDFG. As part of the transition Padraig Drennan has been appointed president of WDFG North America. He will report into Jose Maria Palencia, CEO of WDFG.