Analysis: New OSL stores bring sustainability and robots to the fore

By Kevin Rozario |

TRBusiness was on location at Oslo Gardermoen Airport for the launch of Travel Retail Norway’s refreshed Tax Free and Travel Value arrival and departures shops, which span 9,000sq m.

Travel Retail Norway (TRN), the joint venture between Gebr. Heinemann and local partner Norse-Trade, has revamped and reopened the tax free and travel value shops at Oslo Gardermoen Airport (OSL).

TRBusiness was on location at the airport yesterday (1 June) for a ribbon-cutting to mark the official inauguration of the upgraded store footprint, which includes six shops covering a vast 9,000 sq m area.

A significant focus has been placed on sustainability, local brands and products, plus technology to drive efficiency and customer service.

OSL is, by far, the biggest location in the network of Norway’s state-owned airports operator Avinor, which runs 43 gateways.

“OSL brings in 25% of Avinor’s commercial revenue and the retail shops here account for 78% of that, so it’s a lot of money,” Joachim Lupnaav Johnsen, EVP Commercial Development, Avinor told TRBusiness.

As such it is a vital income stream, helping to bankroll the country’s entire airport system, so any retail revamp had to be carefully considered.

“The duty free business is the backbone of the financing model we have at Avinor, and for national infrastructure,” emphasised Johnsen.

A new lease of life

Among TRN’s six stores, three are core tax free units. The largest measures 3,200sq m in arrivals and offers the core categories of liquor, tobacco, confectionery, and beauty.

In departures, there are two tax free shops at about 2,000sq m each, and a satellite shop (located in the non-Schengen area).

The renovations at OSL were preceded by the extension of TRN’s existing concession following a tender, as reported, with the new contract starting on 1 January this year for a total of five years.

In addition to Oslo, TRN also operates the duty free shops at Bergen, Stavanger, and Trondheim Airports, the four busiest gateway in Norway. The company has a total of 15 shops at these airports.

A ribbon-cutting took place in the vicinity of the popular click-and-collect space. L-R: Joachim Lupnaav Johnsen, EVP Commercial, Avinor; Tore Hov, Managing Director, Travel Retail Norway; and Jens Wolf, Director Sales Nordics, Gebr. Heinemann.

Tore Hov, Managing Director at TRN, said: “The extension of the concession for us means the continuation of our trusting partnership with Avinor, which has now lasted for a solid 18 years. We want to use it to make our offer in the stores even more attractive and be as successful as we were in pre-pandemic times.”

Joachim Lupnaav Johnsen, EVP Commercial at Avinor, added: “We are delighted to see the conceptual thinking from the tender process coming alive.”

That new life was fully born just a week ago when the final construction hoardings came down.

The aforementioned ribbon-cutting for the official opening took place in front of the click & collect space in the vast in the arrivals shop.

A view of the beauty assortment in one of the TRN departure stores. Credit: Kevin Rozario.

The location was not accidental: click & collect is a fast-growing part of the business and is expected to go from 5% of the arrivals shop turnover (today), to 10% this year, and 20% two years down the line.

Helping to lift that share are behind-the-scenes balletic robots that elegantly perform the stock picking for orders. Their speed has cut the pick time from 17 minutes (through manual picking in-store) down to just one minute, with more-or-less 100% accuracy, according to Hov. This gives passengers greater confidence in the service.

The collection point has been considerably expanded and automated and it is deliberately a very visible part of the store near one of the main secure entrances after passport control.

It is also connected directly to the warehousing and AutoStore system, where the robots are hard at work.

Hov explained: “The arrivals shop is one of the largest in the world in terms of turnover and it has been rebuilt in a very sustainable way.”

TRN’s 3,200sq m arrivals shop is one of the largest in the world in terms of turnover.

It has had some key upgrades, notably a new fine wine space featuring exclusive labels in a temperature-controlled room, some retailing for as much as $1,600.

However, it is the two main departures stores where the biggest changes have been made. They are described as “much more dynamic” than before and throughout. The sustainability theme runs deep – particularly given Heinemann’s strong focus on this topic. The footprint of local and regional brands has also been significantly widened.

The interior design concept from renowned Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta and an in-house team is open and airy, allowing passengers to step out of the shops and back in as they want, very different to the hard-to-escape walk-through stores seen at many other airports.

The design also enables fast orientation to work out which categories are where.

A Nordic look has been emphasised through the use of clean lines and an emphasis on natural materials. At the store level, walls were moved to make categories easier to see and navigate.

A fast-growing element of the TRN business is click and collect, spurred by the impressive efficiency and accuracy of stock-picking robots. Credit: Kevin Rozario.

Travellers can now browse through gift tables and the expanded ranges of regional products such as cider from the west of Norway or beauty brands from Oslo and the wider Nordics.

Snøhetta – which has designed retail spaces for Australian beauty brand Aesop in Oslo and Sydney, and Holzweiler in Copenhagen, among many others – has opted for modular mix-and-match fittings and furniture that are not identical. They can be changed out quickly, or easily moved, to freshen up the category presentations quickly.

The units can be reused again and again, instead of being discarded, in what is described as “a highly flexible system” and the first to be deployed anywhere in the Heinemann travel retail estate.

The fixtures are adaptable across all categories and concepts, allowing for greater responsiveness to customer demands and to create new in-store experiences.

The retail concept is also certified according to BREEAM standards, a UK-developed science-based suite of validation systems built around sustainably and the environment.

A new wines space features a temperature-controlled fine wines room (pictured to the rear) housing exclusive labels.

Also in departures is a redesigned and repositioned travel value fashion shop where passengers can browse local apparel brands from Stavanger and elsewhere and explore a large sunglasses section, plus other accessories.

Moving the store has led to sunglasses sales at the shop being among the highest anywhere in the Nordics, according to TRN.

Jens Wolf, Director Sales at Gebr. Heinemann, commented: “We believe that the travel retail market here will continue to grow strongly – if the right offer is made to travellers. That is why TRN has invested extensively in the shops.”

Localising the supply chain

In a post-pandemic world, TRN’s entire Nordic operation is underpinned by a more robust and greener supply chain.

N-hub opened last year to serve Nordic markets including ferries. “N-hub underlines how important Nordic airports are to us,” continued Wolf. “It is a blueprint for solutions in other parts of Europe and adds to our goal of becoming a more sustainable company as it helps us to save 300,000 transportation kilometres every year.”

N-hub also symbolises Heinemann’s ambitions to become an even bigger duty-free player in Nordic markets, not just its strongholds of Norway and Denmark, but in other markets and in channels like cruise/ferries as well as airports, with a focus on retail and wholesale, as well as services.

Wolf added: “This is a new chapter. These shops in Oslo are flexible, local, and sustainable and the reopening marks a strong comeback. People want to shop after the pandemic and we’re ready for a great summer.”

At the moment Avinor says it is touching 85-90% of 2019 traffic, and that percentage is slightly stronger on the international side. The timing is, therefore, just about right.

For more on Gebr. Heinemann, click here.


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