DFS Hawaii, which has operated in Hawaii since 1962 and employs 660 people, began taking steps to reduce a quarter of the workforce today in one of the largest layoffs of the state's softer tourism cycle.
About 165 layoffs are expected to be spread across three DFS Hawaii locations – T Galleria of DFS, Hawaii; Daniel K. Inouye International Airport; and Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole. They include management, sales, operations, clerical and practically all DFS Hawaii departments.
Qualified workers will receive remuneration packages based on their years of service to the company, which has strong ties to Hawaii that will return for decades.  DFS Airport concessions at the then-named Honolulu International Airport were the company's first duty-free store in the United States. The company's flagship store in Waikiki, now called the T Galleria of DFS, Hawaii, first opened in 1
Jay Frame, Vice President of Corporate Communications for Hong Kong's DFS Group headquarters, said the steep decline in visitors and reduced travel needs from key international markets, combined with the cost of doing business in Hawaii, led to layoffs. Another important factor was the significant proliferation of the retail sector across the country, which has increased the competitive environment for retailers.
Tim DeLessio, president of global store operations for Hong Kong-based DFS Group, which was in town today to help DFS Hawaii break the news to local employees, said while the layoffs were still somewhat fluid, the bulk of them will find place today and will be effective immediately. DFS makes on-site advisors available to employees to begin helping them with the transition, he said.
"For many months we have signaled an alarming coincidence of factors that have had an increasing impact on our business," DeLessio said in a statement. “A significant drop in visitor spending and a general softening of the consumer mood, combined with the high costs we pay to stay in Hawaii, meant we couldn't delay the inevitable anymore. This was a difficult decision, forced by a difficult environment. "