Gebr. Heinemann has unveiled two refreshed duty free and travel value shops at Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport (BLQ).
TRBusiness was on location in the terminal yesterday (28 March) for the official revealing of the refurbished stores, which have been re-opened after an extensive modernisation.
The larger of the units spans around 700sq m of space and is located in the Schengen area, while the other 300sq m shop is situated in the non-Schengen zone.
Shop renovations were undertaken following Gebr. Heinemann’s contract extension with Aeroporto Guglielmo Marconi di Bologna until 2028.
The reimagined spaces feature an enlarged fashion, accessories, watches and jewellery area housing affordable luxury brands such as Furla and Coccinelle.
Exclusive global brands such as Montblanc and Saint Laurent rub shoulders with revered Italian labels from the likes of Gucci, Prada and Dolce & Gabbana, while travellers can also discover hand-picked specialties from the region.
Global meets local
An expansive beauty area includes Italian perfume brands while regional food & wine options can be explored in a large market square in the Schengen store.
The category is further accentuated by an interactive totem offering passengers multimedia content and information on products, companies and promotional activities.
Meanwhile, a new click-and-collect shopping service has been introduced for the first time and a pop-up area has been created for the benefit of the travel retailer’s brand partners to rotate promotions.
In a firm nod to sense to place, the new concept takes its inspiration from the cityscape of the university town and medieval capital of the Emilia-Romagna region in Northern Italy.
The Schengen shop draws on the characteristic sights of the Piazza Santo Stefano and Portici (arcades) while the design of the non-Schengen shop based on the Palazzi Bolognesi historical palaces, whose chandeliers and frescoes are reflected within.
As part of the redesign, sustainable concepts have been concentrated around waste recycling and energy saving.
Christoph Stump, Director Sales at Gebr. Heinemann, said: “Our two stores and the range of products are now even more closely linked to Bologna and its surroundings.
“It is in line with our conviction to work out the optimal concept together with our partners on site and make sure it is aligned with the local conditions and the special features of the region. The combination of selected regional products with global brands is tailor-made for the international audience in Bologna.”
Gebr. Heinemann operates duty free & travel value shops at Italian airports including Bologna, Bari and Turin.
The company first entered the Italian market in 2011 with a then 10-year concession at Bologna Airport via the Regal GH joint venture Travel Retail Italiana [which later became a wholly owned subsidiary of Heinemann – Ed].
Fulvio Fassone, Managing Director Heinemann Italia, said: “Heinemann opened its stores in Bologna twelve years ago. At that time, it was our first location in Italy. We are very proud that in the course of the modernisation we can once again significantly improve our spectacular assortment here.
“In addition, our cooperation with the airport today goes far beyond commercial business in terms of sustainability projects, commercial strategies, market analysis, social initiatives.”
Nazareno Ventola, CEO Airport Bologna, added: “For the year 2023, Bologna Airport expects a steady recovery towards pre-pandemic levels, given the strong resilience of its catchment area. The main target group for Bologna is international travellers, which represent almost 80% of total passengers. Among them are business as well as leisure travellers.
“The new stores opened by our duty free partner Gebr. Heinemann enhances significantly our airport value proposition, in line with our goal to improve the passenger experience at Bologna Airport.”
An uprated experience
Past immigration control, travellers are welcomed by the Heinemann duty free and travel value fascia as they enter the smaller non-Schengen store.
A wide, sweeping and well-lit walkway is flanked by wine, spirits and confectionery on one side and fragrance, cosmetics and sunglasses on the other.
Aside locally inspired architecture, there is a strong play around local materials and sourcing for POS furniture. Modular units offer flexibility while improving circularity through sustainable approaches to waste recycling, for example.
Meanwhile, in the main Schengen area store, passengers are greeted by an imposing brand pop-up space that can be switched up regularly, before navigating past the affordable luxury shop-in-shop to enter an expansive area boasting food and confectionery, fragrances, skincare, travel accessories, gifts and a click-and-collect unit.
The modernisation of the two shops began in November and concluded in mid-February 2023. Heinemann declined to comment on the project’s investment.
While the total footprint measures approximately 1,000sq m as alluded to above, around 65sq m of additional space was negotiated following the Hamburg-headquartered travel retailer’s contract extension with the airport to 2028. This extra commercial room has been put to good use in the main Schengen store within the affordable luxury zone.
“We are absolutely happy to see the result of the reconstruction here,” Christoph Stump, Director Sales told TRBusiness. “It’s always important as an international operator to bring the local spirit into the environment, with Italian flair and I think we’ve achieved this very well.”
Ventola added: “In terms of [passenger] traffic, 2022 was a recovery year. We were almost at 90% of levels compared to 2019. This year we will improve – I don’t know if we are going to reach 2019 figures in 2023 but we are going to be very close.
“The summer has started very well with almost a restoration of connectivity to the European hubs that we had pre-Covid. The local (domestic) segment surpassed 2019 levels last year. The legacy segment is more dependent on continental markets. These are slower, but are coming back.”
He spoke optimistically about the strength and resilience of the airport. Traffic in 2019 totalled 9.5 million per annum within a catchment area estimated at around 18 million people that covers the large part of north and north east Italy, well connected to the country’s high-speed rail network via the airport shuttle service.
“[From Bologna] in 45 minutes you are in Florence in one-and-a-half hours in Milan, connecting to high-spending parts of Italy, which for us of course is a plus,” he continued.
Heinemann will be tracking the return of continental and intercontinental traffic with interest as it seeks to capture high spenders while increasing its portion of revenue from local retail propositions.
Currently, Heinemann Italia operates at three airport locations in Italy (Bologna, Bari and Turin) but remains eager to pursue concession expansion opportunities across the country, learns TRBusiness.
It is gathered that its three operations generated sales of around €25m in 2022, nudging 2019 levels.
At a press conference hosted by Gebr. Heinemann and Bologna Airport, Stump welcomed the ‘next chapter’ in Heinemann’s partnership with the airport operator, while thanking the team involved in the stores’ refurbishment project.
“The reopening marks a strong comeback in the market and comes at the right time after the pandemic – we are better prepared. You’ve already seen since last summer how the business is recovering. People are keen to travel to and from Bologna and the Italian market is absolutely in front compared to others because in this region the recovery was and is much quicker.”
He dubbed the shop concept a ‘new era’ for Heinemann, with a concentration on local touch and sustainable elements.
“Sustainability is a strong focus for us when we planned the redesign of the stores, from the furniture itself but also everything connected: the people and companies involved with this reconstruction have been supporting us to reach our targets,” continued Stump.
“The new furniture concept has a focus on a spectacular assortment. That is what we want to offer to our customers and the new store design also gives a high degree of flexibility so you can change and adapt to new assortments, giving customers a new look and feel and excitement. This is a big focus for us in our stores.”
TRBusiness asked what Heinemann and the airport operator have learned, respectively, from their partnership over the years, including more recently through the turbulence of the Covid-19 pandemic. Stump responded: “There has to be a close collaboration between partners to find solutions otherwise you cannot survive such a pandemic. This is of really high importance to come out of such a situation.
“In terms of customers, we see the customer profile is still slightly different. Long-haul flights are still missing, but what we can see is people are willing to spend very well. Especially after the pandemic, people were spending more than before and that is what we now have to emulate with business development as people are starting to fly more often.”
Bologna CEO Ventola added: “First of all, it’s good to have a good partnership before in good times, so when bad times come, we are ready for it. That’s what happened. We were developing this long-term partnership with Heinemann and actually the relationship business-wise and personal-wise was excellent before and that has helped us face the issues we’ve had to face over the last three years. I think when you’re in such a situation, you have to give and take, find a way together to come out of the crisis.
“Together, we were also able to always find a solution and be confident about the dynamics of the recovery. We knew from Heinemann’s side and the airport’s side that we were growing [over the previous year] on solid ground. As soon as the routes were available, we were confident the traffic would come back. Of course the profile is different, but passenger behaviour is also evolving and we’re confident of the future.”
This is an updated version of a story first published on Tuesday 28 March.