Norwegian Airport operator Avinor has revealed to TRBusiness that 30 companies have shown interest in the recently announced duty free and travel value tender covering 11 airports across the country.
Running from 2023 to 2027, the estimated value of the contract is €3.6 billion/US$4.3 billion/US$641 million.
As reported, the duty free element encompasses 17 shops spread over 16,000sq m at Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger, Trondheim, Kristiansand, Ålesund, Tromsø, Bodø, Harstad/Narvik, Molde and Kristiansund Airports. Total duty free turnover (liquor, tobacco, confectionery and perfumes and cosmetics) amounted to €530 million in 2019.
Additionally, seven Travel Value shops at seven of the aforementioned airports are up for grabs, spread over 1,500sq m. Categories include perfume and cosmetics, accessories and confectionery/fine food. Total Travel Value turnover was €30m in 2019.
Travel Retail Norway (the joint-venture between Gebr. Heinemann and local partner Norse Trade) operates duty free and travel value stores at the five largest Norwegian airports and has a contract until 2022. Avinor runs stores at the six smaller airports.
The deadline for submissions is 23 April 2021 and the winner will be announced after the contract is signed in late August.
TENDER INFORMATION MEETING
Joachim Lupnaav Johnsen, Executive Vice President Commercial, Avinor told TRBusiness: “We are happy with the interest. Last week, we held an information meeting which attracted close to 150 participants. It is a case of so far so good.”
On the timing of the tender Lupnaav Johnsen said the main objective was to give potential new operators a fair chance of winning. “It was important to release the tender when we did so any new operator would have sufficient time to ensure everything is in place in terms of overall operations, logistics and the whole set-up in general.
“If a winner is announced in August, there will still be one year and one month before everything goes live.
“This is part of being a fair player. We are in a concession-based market and need to play with very open cards, which is something we have tried to do.
“Everyone we have spoken to [in connection with this tender] appreciates our approach and believes this is a really fair and open competition.”
As the pandemic has developed, the need for more flexible contracts has become apparent. This has prompted Avinor, for example, to adopt a new and more balanced concession model, taking into account specific regulatory changes and unforeseen drops in passenger numbers. Exit clauses have also been introduced along with the option to adjust the footprint of stores.
Outlining the reasoning behind these changes, Lupnaav Johnsen remarked: “We realised we needed to be much more balanced in our approach to this contract. It is the only way forward, because we know that contracts with the highest fixed costs are the most difficult ones to cope with.”
He also revealed a sense of excitement surrounding the tender opportunity. “Duty free income is kind of our oil let’s say. It comprises a significant sample of our business. I believe we need to challenge the set-up from time to time, be open-minded and look out for new opportunities on the market. This is what we are trying to do.
“I also see this as kind of a light-house contract in the duty free market. Many players have a taken a heavy hit [due to the pandemic] which is why companies are seeking new business opportunities and looking to Norway at the moment. This makes me really excited.”
OTHER COMMERCIAL PROJECTS
In terms of other commercial projects, changes to the retail set-up at Oslo Gardermoen Airport are in the pipeline. New retail and food and beverage contracts will also be up for grabs at other Norwegian airports this year or next.
“There is business to be done, but we have not finalised the whole set-up as we are making some changes to our space and floor-planning.
“We will look at ways to stimulate new entrants to this market and obtain the best possible mix of tenants to serve the potential of passengers post Covid-19.”
Continuously accommodating the needs of the affluent Norwegian population, which has high purchasing power will remain a challenge. “It is always a challenge when you have picky customers who want really high-quality and the best of what is available. Generally, the quality of the retail offer we have is very good.
“What is clear is that the duty free business here is kind of embedded in the Norwegian travel experience. The tax we seem to have on alcohol and tobacco in Norway makes the duty free savings pretty extensive.”
He continued: “Obviously, there is the challenge to keep growing and developing categories such as perfumes and cosmetics and liquor and tobacco.”
Speaking of challenges, Lupnaav Johnsen cites attracting younger consumers and introducing concepts which grab their attention as an important growth opportunity.
“Secondly, we had an increasing number of international tourists visiting our country [prior to the pandemic] so must understand how to sell products to our guests from abroad.
“This is also an opportunity and calls for local products, unique experiences and tailoring based on passenger location.”
In the months leading up to issuing the tender, mitigating against the impact of the coronavirus has been the main priority.
Lupnaav Johnsen recalled: “We have worked closely with the Norwegian government which has had a programme in place since the beginning of the crisis to support hard-hit businesses. This programme has been updated quarterly since the beginning of the crisis and we have been following it closely.”
ASSISTANCE FOR TENANTS
During the crisis, Avinor, like many airport operators has assisted tenants with contracts (minimum annual guarantees in particular) and their overall business set-ups. It has also worked closely with the Norwegian government, as alluded to above. “We are dependent on the state for our own liquidity but must also offer support to others based on how the government want us to do this.
“These have been very challenging times. Obviously, the drop in passenger numbers has been extreme, especially internationally. We have had some domestic passengers, but it continues to be a tough time for everyone.”
The significance of vaccine rollouts in shaping the future of aviation and travel in general must not be underestimated, according to Lupnaav Johnsen. “It is all about how fast we can get the majority of the population vaccinated. For Avinor and Norwegian aviation, the recovery depends on the ability of European countries to roll-out vaccines.
“If Spain, for example, is lagging behind, we will suffer because Spain is a place Norwegians like to go on vacation.”
Looking ahead to later this year, Avinor is preparing to launch some kind of ‘welcome back’ approach. This will be done once it becomes clear as to ‘when, how and where’ people are going to travel.
“The ‘welcome back’ approach will involve mobilising our team and tenants. Obviously, there will be adaptations with social distancing and other elements, but the target is to re-establish Avinor’s commercial foundation.
“Duty free is a big part of that journey because it obviously forms the basis of what we want to do. Aviation and airports are still attractive spaces.
“Covid-19 has taught us a lot of new lessons around risk and how to cope with a sudden loss in passenger numbers. We have found new ways of operating in the years ahead which is one positive.”
Lupnaav Johnsen concludes by offering some predictions for 2021. “I expect an accelerated recovery in the second half of the year. Personally, I am optimistic. I hope we will get a fair share of the summer vacation. I think we are on the right track, but uncertainty is high.
“It’s not going to be as dark as 2020, but it is still going to be a grey year going into a much better 2022.”
The full tender package is available here. Interested parties must register a free account to access the documents.
*TRBusiness is now able to share exclusive information from Swiss research agency m1nd-set/IATA on the world’s top 1,500 airports. We will bring you more details on the partnership in due course…