by Kevin Rozario London, United Kingdom
Coinciding with our recent articles on food and beverage, the travel retailer Gebr. Heinemann entered this segment in July. It should not come as too much of a surprise since F&B has been delivering better results than retail during the pandemic, and may do so for some time to come.
Travel retailer Gebr. Heinemann is targeting smaller, regional airports in Europe with a mixed retail concept as it seeks to diversify its business which is heavily skewed to duty-free shopping.
Earlier this month, the Hamburg-based company opened the first iteration, outside Germany, of a retail concept that includes food and beverage (F&B) through a joint venture called Smartseller. The store in Ljubljana Airport, Slovenia marks the start of a wider push into other gateways in Europe.
A spokesperson at Heinemann recently told Forbes.com: “Smartseller is talking to a handful of regional airports across Europe that could be candidates—locations with roughly 1-1.5 million passengers annually. If and when the concept can be implemented depends on factors such as existing contracts at these airports and their duration, the passenger profile and, of course, the progress of Covid recovery across Europe.”
The joint venture was launched early last year between Heinemann and Casualfood, an established owner-run specialist in food-to-go outlets. It allows Heinemann to offer smaller airports a one-stop solution that includes F&B. This non-aeronautical segment has shown its resilience during the pandemic.
Australia’s The Mercurius Group, says that F&B typically has the highest penetration of any travel retail format, sometimes more than 50%. “While F&B lags duty-free and luxury fashion in average transaction values, it more than makes up for this in higher penetration,” said CEO Ivo Favotto.
F&B can also become increasingly important at smaller gateways where regular shopping options may be limited and where passengers stock up at the airport to avoid buying food and drink on their flights.
Heinemann’s French rival, Lagardère Travel Retail, which has been expanding its luxury footprint in Chinese airports, derived more than one fifth of its €1.7 billion revenue in 2020 from F&B, which it considers a cornerstone of its travel retail operation.
The Smartseller space at Ljubljana integrates duty-free, F&B, and convenience products in an airside walk-through area covering 10,800 square feet. The brand name of the store is ‘all yours’. While Smartseller has launched test integrated solutions on a smaller scale at the airports of Münster/Osnabrück and Leipzig in Germany, the Ljubljana store is the first to use an umbrella fascia.
Smartseller managing director Karl Niendorf said in a statement: “All yours melts the barriers between duty-free, F&B and convenience shops allowing passengers to move about as they wish. The concept evolves retail spaces from formerly rigid, category-centred assortments into four needs-oriented zones. The airport of the future must be understood as a holistic marketplace.”
These zones – Your Location (for local products), Your Studio (a place to linger), Your Spa (a well-being area) and Your Bistro (offering F&B) – are surrounded by the rest of the retail offer.
Babett Stapel, chief commercial officer at Fraport Slovenija which runs Ljubljana Airport describes the “intertwined” retail and F&B offer as “one of the highlights” of the new terminal. On a practical level the airport operator only has to deal with a sole contractual partner for retail: a bonus for smaller gateways that have had to cut staff during the pandemic.
Heinemann—unique among its European peers such as Dufry and Lagardère Travel Retail in being a family-run, non-listed company—has been active in exploring other avenues of business in the past year. Projects include a digital innovation hub called Gharage and expansion into the Asian downtown duty-free market. The company is managed by fourth generation cousins Claus and Gunnar Heinemann, and fifth generation CEO Max Heinemann, the son of Gunnar Heinemann.
[Main image: The ‘all yours’ concept at Slovenia’s Ljubljana Airport courtesy of Smartseller]