Retail in Asia


Heinemann Asia Pacific ‘trending in the right direction’ as China outbound travel set to accelerate

Heinemann Asia Pacific airport

Heinemann Asia Pacific is set to take advantage of the anticipated rising wave of Chinese travel across its locations, says regional CEO Marvin von Plato, even if outbound travel from the Mainland has been sluggish to date.

“The reopening of Mainland China to international travel has been slower than we would have expected, or hoped. While both passenger and sales volumes have significantly increased compared to last year, sales recovery is somewhat behind that of passenger traffic, particularly in markets where we have been traditionally more dependent on Chinese travellers.

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He adds that despite the lag in passenger and sales volume recovery from China, the business across its locations is “trending in the right direction, and our Sweet Dreams stores in Hong Kong in particular are benefiting from the reopening of the border with Mainland China”.

Von Plato says that in this phase, some consumer trends remain consistent with pre-pandemic times, with many shopper seeking value and exclusivity in duty free.

Marvin von Plato
Source: The Moodie Davitt Report

He adds, “If there is anything we have learned over the three years of online shopping, online work, online socialising during the pandemic, it’s that we as human beings crave experience and human interaction more than anything else.

“This is reflected in our mission statement: ‘turning travel time into valuable time’. To do that we have several key promises to create unforgettable experiences, cultivate impressive employees and be a valuable travel companion that centres how the customer interacts with us as a company and as a brand.”

The company remains strongly committed to growth in Asia Pacific and is investing in that long-term faith in the market with new and upgraded stores.

Earlier this year, the retailer opened a signature beauty to fashion & accessories store at Sydney Airport T1, and delivered a striking redesign for its Kuala Lumpur International Airport T2 stores with Heinemann Duty Free branding.

And more will follow.

Von Plato says: “We have a number of store openings taking place over the next few weeks, including two new domestic presences in Australia and a fashion boutique in Singapore which we will be sharing more about soon.

“In terms of medium-term investment priorities, we are focused on deepening our footprints in our current markets to truly become a valuable travel companion. This means being wherever the traveller is: whether at the airport, inflight, downtown when they land in their destination, on their cruise journey, on their phones as they’re browsing social media for the next holiday.

“This is partly also responding to how we have seen regional airports’ business models evolving—we see more focus on outreach to non-travellers and on landside property development, so it’s important for us to align with these strategies and help our airport partners realise their vision.”

Within these plans, the expansion of domestic terminal shopping in Australia is high on the agenda.

“We have begun staggered openings of our Sydney Airport domestic stores and we expect to be fully operational within the next couple of months,” notes von Plato.

“This is good timing with the relaunch of the Heinemann & Me loyalty programme in Australia, which has onboarded new partners and kicked off a membership drive supported by a strong marketing push. This is key for our goal to be a valuable travel companion ahead of our domestic stores opening as Sydney is the international gateway into other destinations in Australia. People also travel domestically more often than internationally, strengthening the value proposition of a loyalty programme.”

More broadly, after establishing a presence in Asia Pacific over the past 13 years, consolidating and expanding this is a big company focus.

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Von Plato says: “Our growth mindset is key to expand our Asia Pacific footprint, not just as a proportion of the global Heinemann business but generally. There is a strong drive from our regional team to deliver on our investment in the Asia Pacific, and of course from a global standpoint this part of the world is seen as an engine of growth and essential to a diversified business portfolio. The growth rate of the total addressable market in Asia—travellers—is remarkable and will continue to be a key pillar in our global growth ambitions.”