Multiple stores and luxury boutiques have been opened at Berlin’s new airport which started regular commercial operations on Sunday. But the timing is unfortunate with tighter lockdown rules in Germany coming in from today for a month.
Berlin Brandenburg Airport Willy Brandt—named after the former West Germany Chancellor and Nobel Peace Prize winner—has debuted almost a decade late, after constructions flaws prevented the original 2011 inauguration.
The airport is likely to be the last new air gateway to be built in Germany and marks a symbolic moment. By the end of this week Berlin Brandenburg will have pooled routes from the capital’s existing airports of Tegel and Schönefeld, the latter now incorporated into the new airport as Terminal 5. The other terminals, 1 and 2, are newly-built and house a large proportion of the new shopping facilities. Tegel will close on 8 November.
Engelbert Lütke Daldrup, CEO of the new airport said: “In a few days, the entire air traffic of Germany’s capital region will be concentrated at Berlin Brandenburg.” During the pandemic that is beneficial to retailers as they should see more footfall in one spot rather than having to run two costly operations at Tegel and Schönefeld, with passengers split between the sites.
Heinemann has the biggest footprint at Berlin Brandenburg—its nine stores, including multi-brand boutiques, cover almost 60,000 square feet. Initially only six of them, spanning 32,000 square feet, will be open in Terminal 1. Terminal 2 will not be in use until passenger numbers increase.
Raoul Spanger, chief operating officer at the Hamburg-based travel retailer, said: “Unfortunately, our joy about the opening is overshadowed by drastic new measures to slow down the spread of the coronavirus. But we are convinced that many people will visit our capital by plane in future.”
Open, but not fully
In the meantime, to cut costs, resources such personnel are being shared with the landlord, and opening times are reduced. Steffen Jopp, managing director of Heinemann Duty Free at Berlin Brandenburg, said: “Currently the fashion stores are open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m; the duty-free stores’ hours will be adapted to the flight schedules; and the gate shops are ready for operations, but sales will not start until the (right) passenger volume is reached.”
More than half of Heinemann’s store space in Terminal 1 is taken up by a large walkthrough duty-free shop. As with many of its other airport locations, the retailer has used local themes and influences from the region in the design. Berlin architecture firm Graft has combined the fashion, art and design of the capital as inspiration—for example, concrete furniture in the main store reflects the Berlin Wall.
The two multi-brand stores sell fashion, accessories, watches and jewelry from brands like Armani Exchange, Boss and Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein, Longchamp, MCM, Montblanc. Polo Ralph Lauren
Essentials are in demand right now
On a far smaller scale, another 10 stores at the airport have been opened by Paris-based Lagardère Travel Retail. Several are focused on the segment that the company calls ‘travel essentials’, one of its three business lines. The others are duty-free and fashion, and foodservice.
During the pandemic travel essentials stores have had the greatest resilience, and the fastest recovery rate “by fulfilling the basic needs of travelers” says Jochen Halfmann, CEO of Lagardère Travel Retail Germany. This is a very different story to China where Lagardère has just introduced more luxurious offerings at Shanghai Hongqiao and Shenzhen airports.
Back at the Paris HQ, more investment is being put into the travel essentials segment, which, last year, represented €2.2 billion, or 41% of Lagardère Travel Retail’s total sales. This year that share could be much higher thanks to the multi-channel nature of essentials retailing—it is implemented everywhere from rail stations and shopping centers, to airports.
At Berlin Brandenburg airport—which joins 10 other airports and 39 train stations in Germany where Lagardère Travel Retail operates—the company’s 10 units cover more than 9,000 square feet split between six brands. They include Relay and Hub Convenience as well as stores such as Lego, Look54, Ampelmann and Departure BER.
The company admits that it will be “some time” before the airport’s new retail spaces deliver their full potential but looking into his crystal ball, Jochen Halfmann, CEO of Lagardère Travel Retail Germany, adds: “We are confident the new Berlin airport will become one of the three main airports in Germany in the future.”
Last year, Tegel was ranked fourth with 24 million passengers. With its route network plus that of Schönefeld combined—even allowing for substantial overlaps—Berlin Brandenburg should be able to overtake third-placed Düsseldorf Airport very comfortably.
In the nine months to September, traffic at Tegel and Schönefeld together was down by 70.5%, the same as Düsseldorf. Germany’s larger interconnecting hubs of Frankfurt and Munich were down by 70.2% and 72.6% respectively. They all did better than the average decline of 75% across all German airports.