Gebr. Heinemann: Africa is the future for the travel retail business

By Luke Barras-hill |

Gebr. Heinemann has a supply arrangement for the fashion category at Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport in Mauritius.

Africa remains “an absolute focus region” for Gebr. Heinemann, Bernard Schlafstein, Director Sales Middle East and Africa, has told TRBusiness.

In an exclusive interview available in the November/December regional edition publication, Schlafstein discusses plans to expand Heinemann’s network on the continent while navigating strict currency regulations, cultural nuances and limited cross-border delivery options.

Heinemann operates as an airport retailer in Africa through joint ventures, and as a wholesaler. 

“Our joint ventures operate in South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt,” said Schlafstein, who took over the Africa business in September 2022 as it was integrated into a new MEA sales division following the retirement of Stephan van Groningen. 

“Working with local partners brings several benefits like in-depth market knowledge. We, therefore, have different partners in each country, with South Africa being our largest joint venture. 

“We are obviously looking at other locations as we see great potential in the market. Africa is a growth market, and we will continue growing in this area. We are open to different business models in airports, border shops, wholesale and more.” 

Bernard Schlafstein, Director Sales MEA, Gebr. Heinemann.

Transactional challenges

Alcohol, tobacco and P&C are the most popular categories in Africa DF&TR for Heinemann, while the luxury segment could still increase in prominence as retailing square footage grows.

In terms of challenges, strict regulations on hard currency (money that is unlikely to suddenly depreciate or fluctuate in value) transactions in many African countries makes things difficult. 

“The maximum amount of dollars or euros, for example, that can be transferred per day is limited,” explained Schlafstein.

“This reduces the options. Another challenge is that there are few options for cross- border delivery. Customs regulations vary from border to border and transporting goods is dangerous and requires security.” 

Reporting by Andrew Pentol. For the full report, see the TRBusiness November/December e-zine by clicking here. MEADFA Conference delegates can also collect a hard copy from the press racks at the Kempinski Gold Coast Hotel in Accra, Ghana this week.

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