Five Unifree DF stores open as ‘full’ Istanbul beckons

By Luke Barras-hill |


Five stores over 8,000sq m have opened as part of Istanbul Airport’s phase two duty free operations.

Unifree Duty Free has revealed five stores at Istanbul’s new airport as the gargantuan 53,000sq retail footprint edges closer to full operation.

Spread over 8,000sq m and drawing 1,000 domestic and international luxury brands under one roof, the shops inaugurate phase two of the globe’s biggest airport commercial zone.

Last week, operator İGA Havalimani İşletmesi (İGA) revealed initial renderings of the space, which is operated under a 25-year contract by Unifree Duty Free, of which Gebr. Heinemann owns a 60.8% share .

As reported in December, INA’s ‘full’ opening has been delayed further until March following a directive from Turkey’s State General Directorate of State Airports Authority (DHMI), which has since been confirmed officially.

“The other duty free shops are ready to launch and will all be opened by 3 March – the full operational date of Istanbul Airport,” said an İGA Spokesperson. “Most of our boutiques will be opened [then], a few more will be opened in the following months.”


A soft-opening of the $11.7bn airport took place in October, when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan opened one store.

The second tranche were subsequently commissioned as part of a TRY1.2bn investment, half of which is funded through equity capital.

Included in the latest mix are one of two flagship stores occupying the largest section of the duty free zone, featuring different concepts ranging from 4,200sq m to 28sq m.


Left to right: Ali Şenher, CEO, Unifree Duty Free; Kadri Samsunlu, Chairman of the Executive Board, İGA Airport Operations; Funda Ocak, General Manager, DHMI; and Naci Sipahioğlu, Board Member, Unifree Duty Free.

Unifree Duty Free operates the majority of the retail area, dominated by a substantial ‘central processor’ area boasting 36,000sq m of total shopping space, 18,000sq m of which is dedicated to duty free and Turkish bazaars.

The biggest, located over 3,000sq m and carrying products from more than 100 domestic and national producers, will be operated by ATÜ Duty Free, the joint venture partner of TAV Airports and Gebr. Heinemann/Unifree Duty Free.

Speaking to TRBusiness exclusively prior to the soft-opening, Gebr. Heinemann outlined how a series of Bosphorus-inspired landscapes set the tone for the wider shopping experience customers will encounter at Istanbul Airport.

These occupy seven distinct sections: Fashion Garden; Family Palace; High&Lux Hills: Fashion; High&Lux Hills: Jewellery and Watch; High&Lux Hills: Fashion and Accessories; Style Beach; and Icon Gulf. Each of the sections offer a rich variety of domestic and international brands at competitive prices.


In a statement, Unifree Duty Free says it will soon commission a pre-order system, supported by tablets situated in certain lounges.  They can also use the system to connect to personal VIP sales representatives.


Kadri Samsunlu, Chairman of the Executive Board, İGA Airport Operations.


Meanwhile, passengers visiting the stores can trial makeup and cosmetic applications using augmented retail (AR) technology or physically before sharing print-quality photos of their experiences on social media.

Customisation extends to the shopping experience, with passengers also benefitting from personalised chocolates, perfumes and drinks.

Post-security, they will encounter Bottega Veneta, Bulgari, Celine, Christian Dior, Emporio Armani, Fendi, Ferragamo, Gucci, Hermes, Loro Piana, Louis Vuitton, Prada and Saint Laurent Paris and other premium labels.

Accompanying these are Turkish favourite brands from D&R, Desa, Vakko, Mavi, Atasay, Zen Pırlanta, Yargıcı, Saat&Saat, Rue, Damat&Tween, D’s Damat, Luzdemia, Tamer Tanca and TNC Butik, Emnana, Guard Leather, İpekyol, Machka, US Polo, Pierre Cardin, Cacharel, Dogo, Lambend, Brandy’s and Penti.

Unsurprisingly, technology plays a central role, with innovative products available in four different technology stores at arrivals. Here, 11,000sq m of duty free space will showcase, with pier and transfer shops accounting for a further 7,000sq m.

Ali Şenher, CEO, Unifree Duty Free said: “We are delighted to commission the second phase of duty free zones, after the first opening simultaneous with the airport on October


Ali Şenher, CEO, Unifree Duty Free.

29, 2018. The size of the area, many significant domestic and international brands as well as the concepts we developed amounted to a hit project in the world and we established a duty free zone worthy of our pride: Istanbul Airport.

“In addition to the rich variety of products, quality service is one of our main values. Our sincere expert sales team personalised for the needs of the passengers will serve 24/7to provide unforgettable memories to the passengers coming from across the world.”

Despite the operational delays, operator İGA will now be looking forward to opening phase one of the airport, which is set to handle 90m pax with 100 airlines serving a route network to more than 300 destinations.

Istanbul Airport is being built in four construction phases and will have the capacity to handle 200m pax when it eventually completes.

Kadri Samsunlu, Chairman of the Executive Board at İGA Airport Operations added: “We are so delighted to have taken another major step in this journey of making Istanbul the global aviation centre.

“We aim to provide an extraordinary and highly enjoyable travel experience to the passengers of Istanbul Airport. It is our pleasure to realise the first step of this process in cooperation with Unifree. We will not only provide a service at Istanbul Airport, but also promote our country and most importantly, Istanbul.”

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