Dufry, the world’s biggest airport duty-free operator, has won a 12-year retail concession at Sabiha Gökçen, the closest airport to Turkey’s largest city and tourist hub, Istanbul.

The Switzerland-based company—currently in the process of raising funds to fully acquire Hudson Group
HUD
—will run just over 43,000 square feet of duty-free and specialty shops at the international gateway until 2032.

Sabiha Gökçen was Turkey’s second busiest airport in 2019 welcoming 35.6 million passengers. In the past it ranked behind the former Istanbul hub of Atatürk. However that airport became a cargo gateway last year when Turkish Airlines and other carriers moved to the 90 million capacity Grand Istanbul Airport.

At the new hub, Heinemann runs a vast retail offer of more than 570,000 square feet in collaboration with its Turkish joint venture partner Unifree Duty Free.

Dufry’s footprint at Sabiha Gökçen is a small fraction of Heinemann’s, but it could be almost as valuable, relatively speaking, during the Covid-19 pandemic. With international traffic curtailed across the world, Sabiha Gökçen, with its strong domestic network, has risen up the ranks of European airports.

In August, according to data from ACI Europe, the gateway was the seventh busiest in Europe with 1.2 million passengers. This is well ahead of some of Dufry’s other usual money spinning locations like Madrid (989,381), London Heathrow (866,655), Barcelona (872,611) and London Gatwick (280,475) where traffic has gone through the floor.

A year ago in August 2019, Sabiha Gökçen, ranked 15th in Europe, behind all of the four airports above.

November handover

The new concession consolidates Dufry’s position in Turkey where it has operated since 1993. Its other shopping locations are at Antalya Airport which serves a string of famous tourist resorts lining Turkey’s southern Mediterranean coast; Kayseri Airport in the Cappadocia region, and Zafer Airport at Kütahya.

Commenting on the new contract, Ersel Goral, CEO of the airport operator, ISG, said: “Duty-free is one of our most essential terminal services. Dufry’s global travel retail experience will be an important advantage for us.”

To ensure that’s the case, Cengiz Iman, Dufry’s general manager for Turkey has promised “a state-of-the-art shopping experience at Sabiha Gökçen, adding: “In the context of the opening of the new terminal our shops will feature a completely new design incorporating digital technology and setting the scene for a vast assortment of renowned international and domestic brands.” The new terminal is expected to open in 2024.

In the meantime, from November, Dufry will take over eight existing shops from existing retailer Setur Duty Free and upgrade the retail space. The new concession is split into 31,000 square feet of duty-free retail space in the departure area plus 12,000 square feet of arrivals shops.

The core product assortment will comprise typical categories found at airports such as liquor, tobacco, perfume and cosmetics, as well as accessories and confectionery. In addition, a curated selection of local food and souvenir brands showcasing Turkey’s cultural heritage and specialties will be available.

Sabiha Gökçen has accelerated the completion of a second runway by 2021 and the planned Terminal 2, with completion expected for 2024, about the time when travel is forecast to be back to 2019 levels.

Once fully operational the runway will enable the airport’s capacity to increase to 65 million passengers. from 41 million today.

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