Retail in the Emirates is shifting into the next gear. After a decade and a half of ultra-rapid development of a sophisticated retail infrastructure in shopping malls, retailing is going closer to its clients.
Can you tell us of a project that you have done in the United Arab Emirates?
Made a complete plan for a hard discounter for the Gulf region. From an in-depth analysis of the market, of setting often unreliable data by on the ground analysis and expert interviews, down to a full format. Assortment architecture, price strategy, store planning. but also the challenging issues of sourcing in the region with very limited production capacity. We also solved the crucial location problems as the malls are inaccessible and neighbourhood stores are too small.
Do you speak the languages?
English gets us by in most cases in this open an international country. Signing in the stores is bilingual as well. The well-educated local businessmen or fluent in English as a rule too.
How far along the trend of retail-development is UAE?
Very far. Many are still depending on international retail brands, like Majid Al Futtaim, who operate brands Carrefour, IKEA, and H&M among others. Others, like Abu Dhabi-based Lulu, are progressing under their own flag. there is no shortage of top-level retail talent the Emirates. They know what’s going on in the world and are very capable of applying that knowledge in their own operations.
What’s the special challenge for international retailers and brands in the UAE?
Getting the right partner first of all. It also takes time understanding the potential of this country with its 100-plus nationalities and peculiar social demographics, with its minority of very rich nationals, a constant flow of expats and tourists, and the majority of very low-income labourers. In the last couple of years the balance of power has shifted away from the brands towards the retailers. it won’t be too long before the market conditions for brands will be like those in Europe or the US.
What company would you still like to work for again in this country?
Lulu. We have a lot of respect for this chain of hypermarkets and supermarkets, but feel that we can help them with their assortment architecture.