The Business Year

Imad Bukhari

CEO, THE Group

Basem Malhas

Vice Chairman, Mahmoudia Group

Much is changing within the retail sector globally, and retail companies are concentrating on their differentiation in order to succeed in this market.

What have been your main achievements and impact on the local economy since your establishment?

IMAD BUKHARI Since the onset, we have sought differentiation in every aspect of our business. Our vision is “to be the preferred shopping destination and the most differentiated locally and regionally.” We have lived up to our mission, vision, and values and continue to seek the differentiation that sets us apart from other retailers. This differentiation came from our vision based on exposure to various cultures, travels, and passion for retail. We were the first to introduce experiential retail in our markets, and we still lead in this category. We offer our customers a consistently high service level, premium products with an emphasis on health and value aspects, and freshness and newness in everything we do. We have augmented this experience continuously by introducing new products and services and new brands, Hamleys Toy Shop and Readers Book Stores in 2008, and in fashion, M&CO, Soya Concept, B-Young, and Blend in 2016 and our e-commerce site in 2018.

BASEM MALHAS We operate in the retail, tourism, hospitality, automotive, and banking sectors. Our contribution to the economy is largely from the automotive side. We are one of the highest-duty-bracket markets in automotive in the region, with around 80-100% special duty tax on luxury vehicles. Given the premium product that we sell and the tax bracket it falls under, our group generates a healthy revenue stream in terms of duties and VAT. On the hospitality side, the Four Seasons has been positively impacting the economy through employment, creating job opportunities and investing in human resources. We successfully sent Jordanians to assume senior Four Seasons management positions around the world. The Kingdom has a robust, healthy and mature financial system that is complemented by excellent oversight by the Central Bank of Jordan. Jordan is a very safe country in an extremely challenging region. Jordan also boasts an effective inclusive legal system and framework that protects local and foreign direct investors.

What developments can we look forward to in 2019?

IB With the Hamleys brand in particular, we have the franchise for the Levant, and Egypt was our first step outside Jordan. We have three stores and one more coming in 2019. We are currently looking at three countries: Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. Lebanon will likely come first, and we will be there in the coming few years. In the last few years, we restructured the company, which has proven to be positive, in that we are leaner and stronger. We have a deep understanding of our customers and are aware of the change of behavior taking place. We are best equipped to maintain our position as the preferred shopping destination, expanding our market base and fostering greater loyalty. We have also been expanding all our brands in Jordan. We started with one supermarket and a fashion store to now having five supermarkets, two large fashion stores, five Hamleys stores, and two Readers in Jordan.

BM We are working to set up an academy at the facility that will work closely with Al Hussein Technical University (HTU). The idea, in a nutshell, is to receive 12 students from the university. We will have a master trainer come out from the UK. We have identified a Jordanian to work under the master trainer and become a master trainer himself. We have an area of around 1,200sqm that we are working on repurposing into a proper academy environment. The first students will come from HTU, which has a “plug-in, plug-out” model, and students in years two and three will be able to use this experiential learning opportunity to count toward their degrees. They start a two-year course and after two years they graduate with a level-two Jaguar-Land Rover certificate. For other students, we will hold an open day for the dealers in the region. We are working hard on this and will have the capacity to go up to 48 students in three to four years. If this process is successful, we will receive financial assistance and support from JLR and regional importers. Additionally, I seek to break the gender barrier and am actively recruiting women. We will employ the very first female graduate, which will be the first step in many in breaking down the social barriers that keep women out of these professions.



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