Border shops the bright spot in retail operators’ recovery, says CEETRA

By Luke Barras-hill |

Patrick Bohl, Chair, CEETRA.

Border stores offer the most promising signs of recovery for duty free businesses in Central and Eastern Europe, according to the region’s DF&TR association.

Central & Eastern European Travel Retail Association (CEETRA), which represents the interests of travel retail and duty free stakeholders across the markets, recently concluded a survey of its members on their strategies and outlook concerning the recovery from Covid-19.

CEETRA member Gebr. Heinemann reported that its border shop business in Eastern Europe is tending to ‘recover faster than the airport business, and will return to its original level relatively quickly once the easing of travel restrictions takes effect’.

SUMMER PAX AROUND HALF OF PRE-COVID LEVELS

Heinrig Romania, the Gebr. Heinemann-associated Romanian border shop operator, stated it has not experienced any job losses related to the pandemic.

“Even more than this, we have increased our personnel numbers due to several expansion projects initiated in the middle of the year,” CEETRA quoted the company as saying.

Among the other findings were the best-performing traffic levels during the summer tended to be around 50% of pre-pandemic volumes.

While highlighting that traffic has at times been at -70% year-on-year compared to 2019, Prague Airport said peak days totalled around 50% of pre-Covid levels with the summer months dominated by leisure traffic.

Lagardère Travel Retail operates at Prague Airport.

Lagardère Travel Retail, which operates stores at Prague and Warsaw Airports, reported a passenger drop of -50% and – 40% versus the same period in 2019.

It noted the ‘substantial increase’ in charter flights over the summer.

Health regulations and uncertainty over administrative requirements remain obstacles to traffic gains with leisure trips dominating at the expense of journeys made by affluent business travellers, CEETRA’s research continues.

Solidarity between stakeholders remains strong, though support and cooperation from national governments varies from country to country.

The survey was conducted in August among CEETRA members, which span airports, store operators, brands and other travel retail enterprises.

Commenting on the survey results, Dr Patrick Bohl, CEETRA Chair, said: “Let’s be clear, nobody needs to look backwards at how seriously this pandemic impacted CEETRA members.

“But, looking forwards, while we’d have really liked the reopening of trade this summer to have had a steeper curve, it’s absolutely clear that the shrinkage has stopped, the corporate reshaping of our businesses has been largely completed, and as a region, and as the representative group, CEETRA members have reopened for business and are fully prepared to just get on with the job of re-growing.”

Several leading operators, including Gebr. Heinemann and Lagardère Travel Retail, confirmed that CEE market conditions were rebounding faster than elsewhere in Europe.

However, a number of CEETRA members warned about possible skills shortages in the future due to challenging labour market conditions.

The next CEETRA Travel Retail Forum will take place online on 7 October at 10:00 CET.

The bi-annual forum gathers the most important protagonists from the Central European travel retail.

A members-only breakfast will also take place on 26 October at the TFWA World Exhibition & Conference in Cannes.

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