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Travel retailer Gebr Heinemann ready to come back stronger


Travel retail operator, Gebr Heinemann, has revealed that it is gearing up for aviation’s recovery and is in a good place to resume where it left off before the global pandemic, despite a 67% drop in revenues in 2020.

“We firmly believe in the travel market and are setting our organisation up for the restart, ready to come back even stronger than before,” said CEO Max Heinemann.

Firmly convinced that the business will return, Gebr Heinemann says that it used the last 18 months to further develop its offer for travellers and to redefine the company’s role in travel retail.

“Part of our understanding of creating the future is our commitment to corporate responsibility and responsible travel retail,” said the CEO.

“We are convinced that responsibility in times of crisis and, above all, shaping a sustainable future for Gebr Heinemann are more important than ever.”

Becoming more sustainable

According to the family run business, its determination to make progress on its journey towards more responsibility in the travel industry, and to holistically embed corporate responsibility in all business areas, is highlighted by the publication of its first integrated Annual Business & Corporate Responsibility Report 2020.

Indeed, the company is advancing its sustainable business strategy in all areas. These include, for example, the successive reduction of greenhouse gas emissions at the point of sale and in logistics, sourcing a more sustainable product selection and reducing plastic and disposable products such as single-use bags, bottle protectors and gift wrap.

Finances and surviving COVID-19

The Gebr Heinemann Group closed the challenging business year of 2020 with a controlled turnover of €1.6 billion – a decline of 67% cent compared to 2019’s turnover of €4.8 billion.

With a 63% cent share of the turnover, business at airports was the largest sales channel for the Group. It is followed by the border shop business, which accounts for 21% of total turnover.

For the first time in its more than 140-year history, Gebr Heinemann was forced to make severe cutbacks in all areas in 2020. After the global closure of nearly all retail sites and the standstill of the distribution business, all sources of income had almost completely dried up for the company.

To safeguard the business model during the crisis, the clear objective was to reduce costs while ensuring liquidity. For Gebr Heinemann, this meant streamlining the product range, negotiations on conditions with landlords and suppliers, and personnel measures.

Worldwide, the company was forced to let go of around a third of its employees – a decision it described as “a stab in the heart for the family business”.

“Despite suffering very great losses, we are financially well equipped. We have managed well and have always acted with sufficient care regarding new projects and investments in the past,” said chief financial officer, Stephan Ernst.

“In addition, we concluded a syndicated loan agreement with our five principal banks in January 2020 just before the onset of the crisis. This provides us with financial security in the long-term, while giving the company room to manoeuvre.

“Our objective is to continue enjoying the high privilege of financial independence and to remain in control of our company’s future.”

Open for business 

The company reports that some of its airport shops have already been able to partially or temporarily re-open and that others at gateways in Istanbul, Moscow and Kiev were significantly less affected than elsewhere in its network.

And it notes that at hubs such as Istanbul, Amsterdam and Frankfurt, there are encouraging signs with passenger spending up on before.

“This represents a huge opportunity for coping with the present lower passenger numbers,”  said the company.

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