Carnival Cruise Line has awarded Gebr Heinemann the retail contract for the largest vessel in its fleet, Mardi Gras, due to embark on its first voyage out of Port Canaveral, Florida on 14 November 2020 and which will be able to accommodate more than 6,000 passengers and around 1,800 crew.
In a first for the cruise line, Carnival Mardi Gras will feature six themed zones comprising the French Quarter, Summer Landing, Grand Central, La Piazza, Lido and The Ultimate Playground.
Currently, Gebr. Heinemann manages retail operations through its Americas subsidiary on Carnival Liberty, Carnival Fantasy and Carnival Ecstasy. The Carnival Spirit retail concession is run by Heinemann Asia Pacific. These contracts were all secured in 2018.
William Butler, Carnival Cruise Line, Vice President, Retail Services told TRBusiness: “Our fantastic partnership with Heinemann started almost two years ago on four of our ships and is really strong. It is important to accentuate that. If it wasn’t the case, we would not have awarded them the retail contract on our newest ship.”
KEY LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES
Through its partnership, Carnival and Heinemann have gleaned valuable information from each other and benefitted from one another’s experience, according to Butler. “Before operating on our ships, Heinemann was new to the North American cruise retail industry, but not completely new to cruise retail as it had served as a fulfilment partner for other cruise lines around the world.
“We, however, were the first cruise line to work with Heinemann which made its debut with us as a cruise retail operator.”
The ability of Heinemann to quickly adapt quickly to running cruise retail concessions has impressed Butler and his team. “They are so strong as an airport operator they have been able to lend a lot of their strength in terms of renovations and merchandise coming onboard. We are very proud of the relationship we have with Heinemann.”
Elaborating on the decision to award Heinemann Americas a fourth retail concession, the performance of the aforementioned North American cruise businesses clearly put the German company in a strong position. “We went through a tender process just like we do with any new ship and when any contract is coming to an end. It is very similar to how things work in an airport.”
Existing relationships are also considered when awarding retail contracts on new ships. “Relationships are certainly part of the equation, along with what each partner is proposing to do. The decision to choose Heinemann was part of an RFP process, but our strong relationship was also a factor.”
Quizzed by TRBusiness on the planned Carnival Mardi Gras retail offer, Butler says the cruise line will focus on this later in the year and that details will be announced in the early part of the summer season.
“What I can tell you is that the retail space is always larger on a new ship,” he enthused.
Looking ahead to the start of operations on Carnival Mardi Gras, Nadine Heubel, CEO, Heinemann Americas told TRBusiness: “We are thrilled to have been selected as a duty free retailer aboard Carnival’s newest, largest and most innovative ship to date.
“This is the latest addition to an already successful retail partnership which includes four Carnival ships (Carnival Liberty, Ecstasy, Fantasy and Spirit). We look forward to unveiling new, one-on-of-a-kind shopping experiences and concepts that will continue to provide the best retail experience for travellers.”
THRIVING RETAIL BUSINESS
Meanwhile, Carnival has reported strong retail performance across its 26-ship fleet over the past 12 months.
At present, the cruise line works with five retail partners (Starboard Cruise Services, Gebr. Heinemann, Harding Retail, Dufry Group and Effy Jewelry) and is focused on maintaining the relationship it has with each one.
Butler said: “We are proud to operate with five retail partners. They each have similar offerings, but operate a little differently. It is my role and our team’s responsibility to make it as seamless as possible.”
Thinking out of the box and testing new brands and ideas outside of its comfort zone is the next step, emphasised Butler. “There is a big opportunity to push our typical boundaries outside of what we have worked with for a long time.
“At the same time, we want to protect of those fantastic brands and ensure we are still offering brands our guests love and are expecting onboard. At the same time though, we want to introduce something different.”
Acknowledging the risk factor associated with trying something new, Butler adopts a philosophical approach. “Obviously, any time you introduce something new there is an element of risk. Some things work, others do not. This whole process is something we have focused on over for the past year.”
The hard work appears to be paying dividends with new brands and products appearing onboard. “If you go on any of our ships you will see new brands, which may have perhaps never been seen before or even items which do not necessarily have a strong brand name,” added Butler.
“This is the sort of thing that is starting to differentiate us from typical tax and duty free environments.”
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