How Benny Klepach's company turned 3Sixty
In 1987 Bernard ‘Benny’ Klepach created a small duty free business by winning a single account servicing a Peruvian airline. In the intervening 31 years, he has grown that company, DFASS, into the world’s leading global airline retail and supplier, as well as a route to market distribution specialist. But amid a period of profound change in the marketplace that his company inhabits, so must his business reinvent itself, Klepach told Martin Moodie at company headquarters in Miami. This interview took place just hours before the unveiling of DFASS’s new identity, 3Sixty, on 17 October, which we cover extensively in this special report.
Benny Klepach addresses guests moments before the new identity of the company he founded in 1987 is revealed. [All photos: Steven Shire]
“It’s a significant change for us – the biggest change we’ve had in the business,” says DFASS Founder and Chairman Bernard ‘Benny’ Klepach of the company’s new identity as he casually slips his new gold-hued 3Sixty business card across the table to me.
That’s some statement, especially given the fact that DFASS, like most entrepreneurial businesses, has been in a permanent state of evolution since its creation over 30 years ago. But Klepach also has the entrepreneur’s survival instinct, smelling threat and sniffing opportunity simultaneously. Travel retail was morphing faster than the flight speed of the jet aircraft which his company services and he was determined not to be left on the ground.
“Changing the name is a big decision, but we think that today the industry is undergoing a major generational change,” he says. “There’s an opportunity here, one where omni-channel, or e-commerce, plays a big role in our industry. And there’s no doubt in my mind, certainly in this part of the world, that we’re the best positioned to take it to the next level.
“We and the industry basically have the choice to either up our game or stay in the current status and get eaten up by the Amazons or the Alibabas of the world.”
Goodbye DFASS, welcome 3Sixty.
“But it’s not only in the Americas; we’re doing it in Asia successfully and we plan on having e-commerce be a big part of our business overall.”
Cue the change of company identity, far more than a rebranding but in fact a total repositioning of what the company does, what it stands for and where it’s headed. “We needed a name that really identified with that and had overlapping impact on our retail inflight and our retail in airports,” says Klepach. The new identity also needed to offer and convey an innate flexibility to let both business partners and consumers know that the company was not strait-jacketed by the traditional duty free operating model.
That premise was neatly encapsulated in 3Sixty’s ‘Duty Free & More’ tagline, an open-ended proposition that allows the reimagined company licence to roam. “We can go anywhere with it,” says Klepach. “We and the industry basically have the choice to either up our game or stay in the current status and get eaten up by the Amazons or the Alibabas of the world.”
“You’ll have to put your seatbelt on and watch it, because inflight will now be the centrepiece.”
(Left to right) Designhouse Account Manager Stephanie Magistretti and Designhouse Managing Director Lavinia Culverhouse with Celine Klepach, Juliette Klepach, Julius Klepach and AOE Chief Executive Officer Kian Gould.
But 3Sixty is not purely a defensive move, Klepach insists. Travel retail and duty free offer a fantastic consumer springboard, he says, provided both pitch and platform are right. “The retailing of duty free has always been a major showcase and iconic for the brands,” he comments. “Consumers want to be able to get holistic service from duty free. So, the name is extremely significant in terms of our ability to service them.”
Klepach must have grown weary of hearing inflight retail dubbed the dinosaur of travel retail down the years. If he’s heard one criticism of ‘meal trolley shopping’ he’s heard a million. So, there’s no masking the satisfaction he takes from the fact that via deals such as the company’s joint venture in Singapore with Singapore Airlines and SATS – and with others in the pipeline – a reinvented airline shopping platform may be ideally positioned to take on a whole new allure.
“We now feel that inflight is the future,” he says. “You’ll have to put your seatbelt on and watch it, because inflight will now be the centrepiece. While it was poo-poo’ed and vilified and looked down on by the vendors, it’s back and it’s back with a vengeance. The airlines realise it, the consumer realises it and all our partners realise it… they understand the value that it brings and how important it is.
"I’m not afraid of re-setting the benchmarks of the industry. I’ve done it in inflight and I’m going to do it now in digital."
Breaking news of a renamed company on The Moodie Davitt Report? Benny Klepach with wife Juliette, (left) Diageo Global Travel Managing Director Dayalan Nayager, and Diageo Global Travel executives Keith Gildea and Emily Lively.
3Sixty Chairman and Founder Bernard 'Benny' Klepach on a brave new world for the former DFASS Group.
“And we are well poised. We took our lumps and bruises along the way and, as you know, many people didn’t survive in this business. But we stayed committed to it, we re-based the business but we re-based it very healthily. We didn’t just flip a switch and say, ‘We’re going to be 3Sixty and we’re going to do digital, we’re going to do home delivery, e-commerce or omni-channel.’
“In fact, we sat with our partners, the Estée Lauders of the world, and strategised on what was it that they were looking for. With companies such as them and L’Oréal and LVMH, we sat and strategised on what was important for these vendors on inflight and omni-channel. We didn’t want to step on anybody’s toes. We were very respectful of what were the parameters. Pernod Ricard, for example, played a big role on what they wanted – they were very clear.
“We tailored it to the vendors’ needs, to make sure that we were compliant with what they wanted and that we were not poaching on anybody’s territory,” Klepach insists. “The airlines played a role with us and our vendors in modelling it. And we’re so proud of the announcement we made with Singapore Airlines, because that is the purest form of what the industry is looking for.”
"We’re so proud of the announcement we made with Singapore Airlines, because that is the purest form of what the industry is looking for."
Benny and Juliette Klepach with 3Sixty Executive Vice Chairman Roberto Graziani.
Klepach is not a man given to interviews. He prefers to let his work – and now his Executive Vice Chairman Roberto Graziani – do the talking. But like any entrepreneur who’s first survived and then flourished, he’s proud of what he’s created. Though he’s got an important business lunch to make, he insists on taking me on a tour of the impressive DFASS offices and warehouse.
Insiders say he may just be the most-connected man in travel retail. “I’ll call you back,” is his constant refrain as his phone buzzes relentlessly during this brief but revealing interview. Here’s a man constantly on the move, always trying to anticipate tomorrow rather than react to it. He’s made plenty of money down the years but you get the feeling that it’s the deals and drama and sense of constantly having to think on his feet that drives him today more than the cash.
“I’m very committed to working and I’m not afraid of it,” he says. “And I’m not afraid of re-setting the benchmarks of the industry. I’ve done it in inflight and I’m going to do it now in digital.”
The logo and tagline can be adapted for numerous uses.
Juliette and Benny Klepach with Yannick Raynaud, Managing Director L’Oréal Travel Retail Americas.
3Sixty (shown here as DFASS Group) is the world's 18th biggest travel retailer by turnover.
Note: Conversions are based on currency values as at 31 December 2017.
Source: Moodie Davitt Research
Coming to a travel retail store near you: The new brand identity will be rolled out across 3Sixty's inflight and on-airport network immediately.
The Moodie Davitt e-Zine | Issue 250 | 30 October 2018