Retail in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) seems to be in for a new phase of renewal. The retail market in the UAE began to slow down several years ago as a good supply of stores combined with the economic crisis put pay to retailers’ aggressive expansion strategies. But a new wave of activity seems just around the corner.
Al-Futtaim, owner of department store Robinsons announced in January that it had partnered with Dubai-based luxury distribution company Chalhoub to bring the retailer to the Middle East. The first Robinsons store in the region will open in spring 2017 in the Dubai Festival City Mall. The three-level store will cover 18,000m2 (193,750ft2).
The market will also see the opening of French department store BHV, which is owned by France’s Groupe Galeries Lafayette, in Dubai this September. The 6,000m2 (64,500ft2) outlet in The City Walk Mall will recreate the identity of BHV’s historic store in the Marais in Paris and be positioned as a lifestyle outlet, combining home and fashion with a broad range of price points, and will include a beauty department.
Meanwhile, Chalhoub launched a new retail concept called Tryano offering beauty, bags and children’s products in Abu Dhabi’s Yas Mall in November 2015. Tryano is a 20,000m2 (21,500ft2) specialty store selling more than 250 international and local brands and claims to have one of the largest offers in the UAE in the categories it sells. Overall, 2,500m2 (27,000ft2) are devoted to beauty, with 24% of this space dedicated to fragrance, 62% to make-up and 10% to skincare
Improving the shopping experience
All this movement indicates that there is still much room for expansion in the UAE and the Middle East retail market in general, and that growth prospects are promising. Indeed, while commenting on the opening of Tryano, Chalhoub Group co-ceo Patrick Chalhoub said that the Abu Dhabi market is still lacking in specialty and department stores.
However, this retail investment also shows that consumers in the UAE are looking for a better shopping experience. “Today’s consumers are not only looking to purchase a certain product, they are looking for an experience; they expect to be taken on a journey,” comments Linton Crockford- Moore, creative director of Chalhoub Group.
There is a large choice of brands available and the market has become more mature and competitive, meaning retailers need to come up with better stores, more unique concepts and more original point-of-sale activities to attract the market’s increasingly discerning and demanding consumer. This has led some retail players to focus more on offering exclusive brands and high-end services. At the Tryano store for example, some 40 brands have dedicated spaces and several brands are exclusive to the store, such as fragrance company Frédéric Malle and L’Oréal-owned skincare brand Kiehl’s.
These differentiation strategies and focus on the consumer’s shopping experience combined with the arrival of new retail nameplates is likely to raise the bar for UAE shopping and can only be positive for consumers and the beauty market’s development.