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Digital Shopping Platform Duffle Bags Heinemann As First Travel Retail Investor

Germany-based global travel retailer Gebr. Heinemann has invested in an early-phase startup called Duffle, an app designed to encourage airport passengers to shop during their often lengthy downtime at the gate.

Family-owned Heinemann—one of the biggest retailers and distributors in the duty-free market—did not disclose the size of its investment which was made through its so-called ‘vision hub’ Gharage, effectively a business accelerator.

The Duffle app is less than a year old and its developers set themselves the goal of simplifying the airport shopping experience. The idea, which is not new but hard to realize, is that duty-free shops and other branded stores as well as food and beverage outlets in all terminals of an airport are jointly available to passengers on a single digital platform.

Whatever a traveler chooses, from a cake to a cashmere scarf, is then personally delivered to their gate by ‘runners’. The app allows users to make purchases from up to three different retailers with delivery available until up to 20 minutes before departure. Duffle also offers a service to the arrival gate at the destination airport to give passengers a bit more flexibility.

An end-to-end digital platform

“We have developed the first end-to-end digital platform with fast delivery for the travel retail channel,” claimed Alexander Trieb, founder and CEO of Berlin-based Duffle. “The app makes for a stress-free and frictionless shopping experience.” Other players in this space include Omnevo, also from Germany, and Grab.

Duffle offers access to a segment of travelers that tends to be hard to reach for most retailers and therefore has the potential to generate additional revenue. However, how many passengers are willing to take part is another matter. “Our main focus is on digitally savvy, young professionals who have not yet been customers in the airport shops,” noted Trieb.

Heinemann’s co-CEO Max Heinemann commented: “Digital commerce opens up new and important potential for travel retail of the future, even outside our core business. We want to play an active role in shaping this future by focusing on people and their needs. Making their travel time as valuable as possible is part of that and this is exactly the approach taken by Duffle.”

On social media, Lennard Niemann, the managing director and co-founder of Gharage, said: “I am super hyped that Gharage Ventures has invested in Duffle. Digitizing travel retail is key to addressing new target groups. The app aims to be the most convenient solution for digital natives, both at airports and during their journey. It is a real opportunity to engage a new traveler segment.”

Copenhagen Airport Pilot

Starting in October, the Duffle app will be tested at Copenhagen Airport for nine months with a monthly performance review. “A high proportion of our passengers are open to innovation and are digitally savvy,” said Peter Krogsgaard, the chief commercial officer of the Danish hub’s owner, Copenhagen Airports A/S. “The integration of all retailers and brands in one app promises a real upgrade to the travel and shopping experience. That’s why we are an enthusiastic pilot partner.”

The Copenhagen retail offer will start small. Trieb said: “We will have a curated assortment designed for high-turnover targeting relevant product categories.” An operational team from Duffle will also be on hand to smooth out the kinks.

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