Steffen Brandt, CEO Heinemann Asia Pacific & Board member of APTRA
This month’s profile is with Heinemann Asia Pacific CEO, Steffen Brandt. Steffen is based in Singapore, where the group’s regional headquarters is based. He is married with three boys and when not running Heinemann’s Asia Pacific business he spends his free time playing soccer, mountain biking and biking on his Harley Davidson.
Steffen has been in the duty free & travel retail industry for around 10 years; 6 years of which have been with Heinemann. When asked about his previous professional experience, Steffen says “I have had some interesting career moves in my life, all of which contribute to my current profession right now. From air to water, chocolates to alcohol, and then to duty free & travel retail.”
Steffen trained to become a professional helicopter pilot when he was younger but his career in retail started around 1990, initially in sales. He became part of Masterfoods South Africa in 2000 for a 2-year assignment before joining German liquor company Underberg in 2002. He joined Heinemann in 2006 as Area Manager for Eastern Europe, stepping out for 2 years to to run his own water business in South Africa before rejoining Heinemann in the latter part of 2008. “It is both fun and challenging to be in this industry”, Steffen adds.
The company, in brief
Heinemann Asia Pacific is a subsidiary of Gebr. Heinemann, one of the leading global retailers and distributors. Gebr. Heinemann started as a ship chandler in 1879. To date, the company has a strong presence in 70 countries, generating US$3.1 Billion in revenue in 2012. Today, the company provides the international market with professional service solutions in retail, distribution and logistics. When asked about the company’s ambitions for Asia, Steffen explains “Heinemann Asia Pacific, like its parent company is committed to becoming one of the leading companies within the Asia Pacific region to offer comprehensive solutions in the travel retail business. We started operating in 2010 and we have seen substantial growth both in retail and distribution.” Steffen goes on to explain that Heinemann Asia Pacific has been able to establish itself as an independent company in a relatively short time, despite this being Gebr. Heinemann’s first such venture in the company’s history. “It has been quite challenging to get support from some key players in Asia, though.”
On the topic of industry issues, his role with APTRA and his views on some of the challenges to the industry today, Steffen acknowledges that some of the major challenges to the industry today are certain national laws posing restrictions on tobacco and alcohol retail, as well as the erroneous claims which undermine the integrity of duty free and travel retail in general citing the illicit trade of tobacco as an example. “Most importantly,” Steffen says, “I believe that the current concession model is not sustainable in the long run and this does not offer a win-win situation anymore.”
“How can retailers help address these challenges?” we asked. “Everyone involved in the industry should join the various travel retail associations, as together they would be able to leverage the power of ‘more’. If you think that the chocolate or P&C categories are not be affected given that the attention is more on alchohol and tobacco, at the moment, you never know what might happen in the future. It is a must for all companies to join recognized travel retail associations to uphold your rights and interests in this industry.”
What other services to the industry could APTRA and the other associations provide to further develop and protect the interests of the industry, beyond current activities such as advocacy, training, research and conferences?
“APTRA is doing its best to address the common issues that affect us all. Although we can benefit more on coordinating efforts across regions or other travel retail associations in the world.”
Finally, we asked Steffen how he sees his role as a board member of APTRA and what his ambitions for the association. “I see myself being part of a body which helps and supports the industry; plays an active role in developing the collective business further for the benefit of the industry and the travellers in general.”