Catching up with Severino Pušić, travel retail’s low-profile high achiever

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I’ve just been walking through that rare German airport experience – a non-Heinemann run or supplied duty free store.

I’m at Düsseldorf Airport, en route back to London from a whistle-stop visit to The Netherlands. Hold on, you ask, isn’t Düsseldorf Airport in Germany? You would be right of course, but it’s also minutes from the Dutch border, and therefore the most convenient entry point for my visit to meet Seva Group Founder Severino Pušić at his Roermond base in the Southeast of The Netherlands.

With Severino Pušić at his home in Roermond

I told Severino’s fascinating story in detail in a major article last year (see below). I don’t intend to repeat it here; suffice to say that Seva Group is one of the world’s fastest-growing duty free and domestic market distribution forces and a player you’re going to hear a lot more about in the future (in fact, look out for a major story from us in coming days).

[Click here to read our 2018 feature on Seva Group]

Severino is a charismatic but distinctly low-key man. His word is his bond and he believes passionately in his principles, in his company and in his people. “I’m not really a man that likes to stand up on the biggest tower and shout out what I have been through and how I have done things,” he told me in that landmark interview last year still the only one he has conducted.

Today Seva Group’s domestic and duty free distribution footprint includes operations in Panama’s Colón Zone, to service Latin America; Sydney, Australia; the Dubai Free Zone; its Dutch headquarters and a state-of-the art warehouse and distribution centre in Ploče, Croatia, which services global accounts. The group also opened its first duty free store last year in Metković, less than 200 metres from the Croatian road crossing into Bosnia and Herzegovina.

I spent a highly enjoyable few hours yesterday with Severino in Roermond, culminating in a splendid outdoors dinner at what ranks as the smallest castle in the Netherlands the lovely Kasteeltje Hattem, where I stayed for the night and set up one of my most interim but surely most picturesque Moodie Davitt Report Interim Bureaux. The castle may be small but the same adjective could not be applied to Severino’s impressive business empire, which also straddles other sectors, including real estate. A largely unsung success story and that, I suspect, is how Severino will keep it.

And that non-Heinemann German airport offer? It’s run, of course by Dufry-owned World Duty Free, which snapped up the concession in mid-2012, replacing 20-year incumbent Gebr Heinemann at the beginning of 2013.

Tangfastic: Nice to see a stand-alone store from German confectionery house Haribo

It’s a pretty standard duty free shop, in which I headed as usual for the local products section, integrated in a Taste of Germany section. The German wine selection was adequate, no more. Five shelves of wine, no product detail. The international wine offer, itself pretty standard, was better and in a section labelled Sekt (German sparkling wine), there was only one fizz from Germany

OK, the closest wine regions (Amr and Mittelrhein) are over an hour’s train ride away from Düsseldorf, and the city is better known for its famous local Altbier (as Time Out says, “It tastes a bit like bacon, and is best served in teeny-tiny glasses and refilled frequently”). But I still think airport stores in wine-producing countries should put on a top-class showcase of their national offerings – especially so in Germany’s case, given its treasure chest of great wines, many of which are comparatively unknown internationally.

A clear lack of Sekts appeal

I bought a Von Buhl 2018 Riesling from the renowned estate of Weingut Reichsrat Von Buhl, and I can’t wait to open it tonight, gently chilled with a nice grilled sole and a mixed salad.

Back to home base then, before a Saturday morning trip to China, the start of a long and complex 12-day journey from Hong Kong to Beijing to Zunyi Moutai to Guiyang to Shanghai to Singapore to Hong Kong to Macao, back to Hong Kong and finally to London. I may need that glass of Von Buhl Riesling to steel me for this one.

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