Gebr Heinemann

Independence, resilience and faith in the travel retail market: Gebr Heinemann sets its course for tomorrow

Digitalisation, sustainability, developing new ways of working within the industry ‘marketplace’ and the future of the contractual model. These were among the key themes addressed by Gebr Heinemann senior management at its annual press conference on 8 June. Above, all, the company’s leadership team stressed its continuing faith in and commitment to the channel and how it will pursue its status as financially independent under family ownership. In the pages ahead, we home in on the key talking points from a compelling session. By Dermot Davitt.

“Despite this tough hit of the pandemic, our belief in travel retail is unbroken. And we intend to play a very proactive, co-creative part in pushing this industry forward.” That was the positive message from Gebr Heinemann CEO Max Heinemann at the company’s annual press conference last week, at which senior management discussed the impact of Covid-19, the drivers of market recovery and where the company takes inspiration for its future. That future, said the team, will lie in remaining family owned and financially independent. “Over 142 years we were always very careful about the investments we made and how we spent our money,” said Max Heinemann. “Today, after being hit by the strongest crisis ever in our history, we are still in good shape. We have never wanted to tap the money market in ways that maybe some competitors do. And this is not a judgement on them, but we are just not made for certain things. Stability and long term is our way. And you will see that in the future as well, in how we select partnerships or are called for partnerships.” The future will also lie in expanding, not retrenching, as a global player, said Max Heinemann. “We are very clear. You will see investment going into all four regions where we operate. Of course, this crisis has put certain restraints on easy investments. What you will probably see is a much clearer focus on where to invest and a different set of priorities. And they will vary from region to region.

“A willingness to change has always been in the company’s DNA, otherwise you could not be in the business for 142 years.”

– Gunnar Heinemann

New generation, similar values: Claus, Gunnar and Max Heinemann

“Over the past 15-16 months we have broken down the regions into their strengths and potential. We have not only been looking at the core duty free or travel retail model where we might play the part of a true retailer. Collaboration and partnership plays a huge role in how we will invest in the future. Some things you can do alone but one of the core strengths of our successful globalisation is built on collaboration and partnership.” That positive message of independence and resilience was reinforced by Claus Heinemann from the fourth generation of family ownership. “The positive thing is that the company is solidly financed and we do not have greedy shareholders,” he said. “We were always shy in distributing dividends and this helps us very much now. It also helps that we made a syndicated loan agreement with our five principal banks. So there remains trust in us and they too all believe in our future.” On the family ties that underpin the company’s long-term thinking, Claus Heinemann added: “In our 142-year history we have experienced two world wars, 9/11, the battle to save duty free, and many other crises. This one has been special as it affected our channels worldwide, and all product categories.

Max Heinemann: Crisis puts the entire organisation to the test

“I’m doing this with my cousin Gunnar for 42 years. I said to him, ‘it was easy being best friends when we had success but how would we be when we had losses and tough times?’ I can tell you that Gunnar is still my best friend. It’s not only our relationship, it’s the strong relationship within the whole family. Our company now represents ten shareholders, four senior and six young ones. All of them have a lot of understanding about this crisis. And for a family company it is extremely important to give this message to all our stakeholders, whether it’s the banks, the landlords, the customers, but especially to our employees. And it helps the board very much when they know that also the family members are behind them. “We did an employee attitude survey and I was surprised at the high level of motivation and loyalty of those who stayed with us. To motivate the people is so important. We have restructured and I and my cousin are now non-executive board members. I am sure that we will become stronger once business starts again.” Max Heinemann added: “If we look at 2020 and into 2021, everything has been put to the test: people, culture, organisation, your set-up and especially partnerships. And it’s important to ask the question, what is the role now of this industry? What are our strengths? Are we still as strong as we used to be? And what you end up with is a clear picture and an attitude towards the market. We will not be standing still, because we have a lot of ground to take and a lot of potential as well to tap into.

Leading the way: Raoul Spanger, Max Heinemann, Claus Heinemann and Dirk Schneider at the annual press conference

“We can sense the great desire to travel everywhere – for example, in the long-term bookings in the cruise market. And those who travel also buy.”

– Claus Heinemann

“We firmly believe in the travel market and are setting our organisation up for the restart, ready to come back even stronger than before.” In these pages we look at how Heinemann assesses the crisis and the road to recovery, as seen through the major talking points from its annual press conference. We look at its ambitions to develop its position within the industry ‘marketplace’, how it plans to integrate corporate responsibility into the wider strategy; the evolution of a more streamlined product assortment; investment in digitalisation and negotiations with airport and other partners, including some strong views on how an evolved tender model can be developed.

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The Moodie Davitt eZine Issue 297 | 21 June 2021

The Moodie Davitt eZine is published 15 times per year by The Moodie Davitt Report (Moodie International Ltd). © All material is copyright and cannot be reproduced without the permission of the Publisher. To find out more visit and to subscribe, please e-mail

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