The SEVA Group – one of just three Diamond Partners at the inaugural Moodie Davitt Virtual Travel Retail Expo (12-16 October) alongside China Duty Free Group and Qatar Duty Free – is leveraging the event to make an emphatic statement about its heady ambitions in the channel.

In a compelling interview with Martin Moodie to be published in coming days, Founder & Chairman Severino Pušić spells out those ambitions, while today we present a sneak preview of the group’s presence at the event and meet The SEVA Group Virtual Travel Retail Expo team.

Here’s a taster of the Severino Pušić interview:

Martin Moodie: Severino, for those in travel retail who don’t know you or your company, they might have been surprised to see The SEVA Group up there as a Diamond Partner alongside industry heavyweights China Duty Free Group and Qatar Duty Free at the inaugural Virtual Travel Retail Expo. That is quite some statement. They might be a little less surprised, of course, when they read that your intention is to be an industry top 20 retailer within five years. That’s a lofty ambition. How serious are you about it?

Severino Pušić: “I think you know us as a group long enough and well enough to know that we always are serious about our intentions. To have a vision, an idea and a goal is one thing but achieving it is another. There are many things that have to pull in the right place at the right time to achieve something. But, yes, we are ambitious and very serious.”

In the interview, Pušić talks about the values and the people that drive the business. Today The SEVA Group embraces travel retail (supply, distribution and retail), local market distribution and real estate. Founded in 1997 from origins as a liquor and tobacco wholesaler in the Balkans, The SEVA Group has emerged as a powerful international force, with operations in Panama, Australia and Dubai, and a global distribution centre in Croatia.

Its first duty free store, which opened in 2018 in Metković, on the Croatian road border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, is one of many planned through both organic growth and acquisitions.

The SEVA Group is also a brand owner, producing 200,000 cases of fine wine per year through the Rubis winery in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It also has the exclusive distribution rights to Samsonite brands in Middle East travel retail through specialist subsidiary Organico Travel Retail (Organico Solutions), led by The SEVA Group IMEA Managing Director Roger Jackson.

[The SEVA Group invites delegates to the Virtual Travel Retail Expo to visit the Rubis winery, virtually of course]

SEVA IBP Managing Director Laura Klingeman

The Moodie Davitt Report: We have seen SEVA IBP growing strongly in the last few years. Tell us about the business and the strategy that has driven this success.

SEVA IBP was established to offer brand owners the best possible route to market for their products and to deliver solid execution at the point of purchase.

Laura Klingeman: We operate every day with a commitment to creating value for brand owners, shoppers and retailers

We are true to The SEVA Group values of partnership and trust, and it’s this way of working that really has driven the growth. Fundamentally we operate every day with a commitment to creating value for brand owners, shoppers and retailers.

Most recently that value has come from a real back to basics approach, stripping out complexity and being ultra-responsive to the rapidly changing demands of each of these groups, and of course innovating were needed.

What are you most looking forward to at the Virtual Travel Retail Expo?

After such a prolonged period of instability, our priority is to connect and support, in order to build the much-needed momentum for the recovery period we are now in.

We are excited to see the elements of travel retail that have at times been overlooked recently. For example, beautiful brand plans, engaging innovation and a raft of new ideas that will accelerate us all into the next generation of travel retail.

Organico Travel Retail General Manager Natalie Jackson

Natalie Jackson: Massive commitment and unwavering belief in the future of travel retail

As the creative lead on the Virtual Expo, tell us about The SEVA Group’s commitment to travel retail. What drives this?

Consumers have shifted their behaviour in so many ways during the last seven months, but the key trends we have observed only cement our belief that travel retail is a critical platform for brands to engage and excite shoppers.

We will of course, all need to innovate to make this a continued reality, and for Organico and The SEVA Group, part of this innovation is showing just how disruptive we can be in the virtual world with our trade show presence.

What is your major focus at the event? 

Primarily to show our massive commitment and unwavering belief in the future of travel retail.

We know brand owners are considering how they operate in our new reality so, for me, really demonstrating how we have got the tools and capability to build brands and create meaningful and sustainable value is essential.

For sure, we will be sharing case studies where we have doubled revenue and share for our partners by totally re-thinking the traditional model.

We look forward to meeting brand owners and retailers alike, who are interested in our proven approach to brand building and distribution.

Vina Rubis General Manager Oliver Mandarić

Oliver Mandarić: World-class wines with a regional twist

Oliver, you are in charge of a fascinating side of The SEVA Group’s business. Tell us about the Vina Rubis winery, which has won numerous awards but might not be known to a wider travel retail audience.

The story begins with the Mandarić family in Vionica, a small Herzegovian village between Mostar and Medjugorje.

The Mandarićs have a deep history of winemaking and viticulture. Their quest for winemaking perfection was embodied in my uncle, Mate Mandarić, who founded the origial winery. Sadly Mate passed away but his dreams of creating world-class wines with a regional twist lived on.

In 2014, The SEVA Group took ownership of the winery, appointing me as a key part of the leadership team, to ensure that the legacy and craft of my uncle was preserved. They brought a passion for innovation and huge ambition to accelerate the winery into the future. They invested heavily in our equipment and supported commitment to quality, meaning we were able to take our beautiful products to a much larger audience.

Today, the winery produces some of the region’s best vintages. We use oak barrels for ageing and still have our small cellar in which the Rubis story began.

Vina Rubis is regarded as the fastest-growing premium wine in the region. What are the keys to that success?

As an authentic regional brand steeped in history, locals, visitors and international consumers enjoy our crafted products.

We work tirelessly to deliver superlative production standards, owning every step of the wine making process. We blend traditional methods and state-of-the-art technology; we own the vineyards, grapes and winery and literally leave nothing to chance. We are meticulous in our pursuit of excellence every day.

SEVA Travel Retail General Manager Nikolas Brkić

Nikolas Brkić: The real success of the store is how we retail and service the customers

The SEVA Group moved into direct retail in 2018 and has made a big impact within the travel retail industry as a result. What are the key factors behind that success? 

We have a great location on the border of Croatia, close to a UNESCO World Heritage site. This area has massively accelerated its popularity with tourists from across the globe.

However, location is only one part. The real success of the store is how we retail and service the customers. And that includes curated ranges of international and local products, expertly merchandised. Everything we do is centred on world-class customer service and ease of shop.

What’s next for SEVA Travel Retail?

Expansion is the next logical step for our business. We believe the team has built significant capability in this area and this concept is now ready to be rolled out to more locations.

As we expand our footprint, we are really keen to partner with more brand owners as we know every location will have its unique requirements – we intend to use the Moodie Davitt Virtual Travel Retail Expo to catalyse new relationships.