Case Study: NRF

National Retail Federation Executive Board – Fact Finding Mission

Havana, Cuba – November 11-14, 2015

The visit by the Executive Board of the U.S. National Retail Federation in late 2015 was designed to meet the informational needs of a high-level group of retail executives examining current and future possibilities for retailers in Cuba, in order to report back to Federation members at large.

Retail in Cuba is currently managed primarily by the Cuban state, through a number of different retailers serving distinct market segments. There are however, well-known multinational retailers who have negotiated franchises in Cuba (Benetton, Lacoste, Paul & Shark, etc.) and an extremely limited number of small independent shopowners. We were tasked with providing an introduction and overview to the Cuban business system, specific to retail concerns.

Working with Cuba’s Chamber of Commerce, IcarusCuba planned an intense seminar and meeting schedule that included the following:

  • General presentation on the Cuban economy
  • Overview of retailing & wholesaling in Cuba
  • Presentation on Intellectual Property Rights, patent and trademark protections
  • Presentation on foreign investment, and Cuba’s plans for the retail sector


Following the initial orientation sessions, meetings were scheduled with VPs and Commercial Directors from five of Cuba’s leading retail entities (ITH, Palco Group, Habaguanex, TRD Caribe and Cimex).

A planned dinner with Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis and his wife Jennifer DeLaurentis at their home was replaced by cocktails due to the sudden unexpected arrival of U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Breakfast with Secretary Vilsack at the Hotel Nacional was a last-minute addition to the group’s agenda.

Cocktails with Ambassador DeLaurentis and Jennifer DeLaurentis

With Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack – Hotel Nacional

Business visas were essential for the group, in order to meet with senior representatives from government ministries (Domestic Commerce and International Trade & Investment) and the state retail entities. IcarusCuba assisted with the process of obtaining these visas.

Newly flexible travel regulations meant that the NRF was free to make its own air travel arrangements to Cuba. IcarusCuba arranged the following:

  • VIP reception at the airport and private transportation with professional chauffeurs who were on call 24 hours for any emergency throughout the visit.
  • Burner cellphones for each member of the delegation, for any domestic calls plus a generous included allowance for international calls.
  • Full-time interpreters throughout the visit.  During the initial presentations and orientation sessions, we provided professional simultaneous interpreting and UN-style earpieces to facilitate faster interaction and Q&A.
  • Reserved lodging at Havana’s top private homes.
  • First-class all-inclusive dining for all meals

The Federation’s Executive Board was occupied more than full time in meetings and professional visits, but they were also legally permitted under U.S. law to engage in certain leisure activities outside their business schedule.  We organized:

  • VIP entrance and hospitality at the Cuban Art Factory
  • Visits to top artists’ studios – we presented a range of possibilities to the board members in advance so they could select the artists that appealed to them the most
  • Classic car tour
  • Walking tour of Old Havana
  • Jazz concert
  • Personal shopper assistance with souvenir purchases
  • Assistance with Cuban customs on departure from Havana