The Business Year

Ashraf AbuIssa Chairman, AbuIssa Holding

QATAR - Economy

Ashraf AbuIssa

Chairman, AbuIssa Holding

Bio

Ashraf AbuIssa took over the family business with his brother Nabil at a young age. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award 2019 from the Swiss Business Council in Qatar, the Businessman of the Year by Arabian Business magazine in 2016, and Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2011. He is also a founder of NGOs and charities such as like INJAZ Qatar, where he is founding board member, the Young President’s Organization (YPO) Qatar Chapter, and Palestinian Children Relief Fund (PCRF) as its vice chairman.

AbuIssa Holding has grown from a retail operations business to become one of the most successful business conglomerates with more than 100 stores in six countries and over 4,000 employees.
How is AbuIssa Holding preparing to make its retail offering stand out for visitors to the FIFA World Cup 2022?

Ashraf AbuIssa: As a retailer, we have to be ready and we are paying attention to the teams that will be qualifying so our retail destinations can adapt to their consuming patterns of credit cards, special products, sizes, brands, and so on. AbuIssa Holding has experience in dealing with different nationalities because we have business in other locations such as Turkey and the US. We expect between 1.2 and 1.7 million visitors during the World Cup, so we have to be prepared. For the brands that we represent we want to also give them a chance to project their products and to display their products in a good way. We feel that we are more like partners with the brands that we represent rather than just a retailer. Additionally, AbuIssa Holding has managed to obtain a license for some of the products for the FIFA World Cup that they can be displayed in all of our stores around Doha. We are planning to take a shop-in-shop or pavilion to sell FIFA souvenirs and merchandise. We are producing under the licensing agreement certain products that are specific to Qatar with the designs and the items being connected somehow or the other to the country. People will be able go home with a nice souvenir they can remember forever. AbuIssa Holding will be offering a wide variety of merchandise. We also have a department producing and importing high-end food items. We try to have something that is more of our region and the neighboring countries like Oman and Iran and Turkey produce specific items that would appeal to some of the visitors.

How do you see the interest of international brands and firms in entering or expanding their presence in the Qatari market?

Ashraf AbuIssa: Most of the major global brands are present, but some niche brands are not, and that is maybe where the opportunity lies. Some of them have a connection with one of the star players or sometimes teams or clubs. We work with Replay, which is a brand interested in football and that has made an agreement with the football team Paris Saint-Germain and also with Neymar who acts as a brand ambassador. For a brand like that, it is important for us to highlight such things. Also, some watch companies for example like Breitling or Zenith are brands that are particularly popular amongst sport lovers. We will have special editions made for Qatar for that period. Even in our porcelain ware, tabletop items, linen, and luggage we are trying to have something symbolic of the event, and we are even making head covers like ghutras in each team’s colors. For every team we are going to have the colors of that team in the ghutra.

What is AbuIssa Holding’s vision on attracting tourists to its shopping destinations?

Ashraf AbuIssa: In Qatar we have all the basics in place, including a good airport, quality infrastructure, and amazing hotels. The country is now working to develop the tourist experience for a wider offering, ranging from shopping, culture, and business to sports. In support of this, Qatar is restoring some of its old villages to bring them alive in different parts of the country. As a group, we are always ready because we have a good footprint in our retail scene in Qatar and are probably the largest luxury retailer in the country in terms of floor size. We are present in every mall and are extremely responsive to developments. I feel that Qatar will be able to compete and attract a lot of tourism in the region. In addition, if we offer something new then the countries will complement each other and tourists will come from other regions and visit several countries in the GCC.

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