Many milestones have paved the way for us to become the world leader of the Tax Free Shopping industry and a key player in the Payments business.
The concept of Tax Free Shopping was pioneered on Monday 4 August, 1980 when passengers sailing from Trelleborg, Sweden, to Germany were told they could receive a VAT refund in cash by presenting their purchases at Customs. This was the birth of the modern Tax Free Shopping concept.
Throughout the 1980s, we expanded outside Sweden, launching first in neighbouring Scandinavian countries, then in other European countries including France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom.
The 1990s saw our European expansion accelerate rapidly, with operations opening in over 10 new markets across the continent, including Italy, Spain, Ireland, Denmark and Switzerland. As the European Union dropped its borders between member states, our international refund network started serving travellers upon their departure from the European Union.
The decade also saw the business expand beyond Europe for the first time. In 1993, we launched operations in Singapore, followed by other markets in Asia and the Americas.
By 1999, we were refunding eight million travellers per year.
The year 2000, a milestone for the business, saw the launch of Currency Choice, our Dynamic Currency Conversion service. This was our first complementary product, later followed by a range of marketing and processing services aimed at maximising international shoppers’ interactions with our partners around the globe.
The 2000s saw the business move its headquarters to Switzerland and accelerate its global expansion, with Tax Free Shopping and Dynamic Currency Conversion operations launching in over 15 new markets throughout Europe and Asia.
2009 also marked the launch of SHOP magazine, the multi-language and high-quality content magazine supported by leading fashion brands and distributed at key points of the international shopper’s journey.
In 2011, we launched our Intelligence business, allowing us to glean insights around international shopper behaviour. In the same year we also cemented our position as the world leader in digital Tax Free Shopping, with the launch of eTRS, the electronic refund system developed on behalf of the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore.
Over the past few years, we have continued to grow quickly, launching Tax Free Shopping operations in several new countries including Japan and Uruguay in 2012, The Bahamas in 2015 and China in 2016.
2016 also marked the acquisition of Currency Select, the Dynamic Currency Conversion expert, strengthening our expertise in the Payments industry. This allowed us to reinforce our Dynamic Currency Conversion presence in the Asia-Pacific region and to add new Added-Value Payment Solutions to our portfolio for acquirers, including Gateway, Tokenisation Solutions and Financial Processing.
In 2017, we brought more landmark innovations to the industry that would markedly improve the Tax Free Shopping journey for travellers. These included Mobile Customer Care (MCC), which offers real-time support, guiding them through the Tax Free process, as well as instant refunds to digital wallets, via partnerships with international payment platforms including Alipay and WeChat.
In 2018, we became the first major Tax Free Shopping provider to launch in Russia, contributing to boost each country’s retail and travel industries.
In 2020, we listed our company on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Ant Group became a significant investor, making our relationship with Alibaba Group even stronger, alongside our current investors, SilverLake and Partners Group.