The Business Year

Christophe Nicaise

CEO, Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons

Anan Fakhreddin

CEO, Damas International Limited

What are your respective retail strategies for 2014? CHRISTOPHE NICAISE First of all, we are a 100% UAE-based retailer. About two years ago, we acquired a company in Abu Dhabi, […]

What are your respective retail strategies for 2014?

CHRISTOPHE NICAISE First of all, we are a 100% UAE-based retailer. About two years ago, we acquired a company in Abu Dhabi, which was the first external growth in the history of Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons in order to improve and increase our footprint in the UAE market, which is our national market. We were mainly based in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, and through this acquisition we are now covering the entire national market. As of today, we do not have the ambition to expand outside our home territory of the UAE, though we are still looking at growth opportunities to keep on increasing our retail footprint in the UAE market. As far as Dubai is concerned, we also have a lot of growth opportunities and everyone has been talking about the World Expo 2020, which we believe will position Dubai as an important market in the world and attract even more tourists. The government is planning to double the number of tourists between now and 2020 to 20 million. New families are also moving in and the market is expanding. We want to be number one in the country that we know the best, and we think there is enough potential for our company to continue growing by mastering this market before considering any moves abroad.

ANAN FAKHREDDIN During the past 18 months, we have revamped our business strategy. Originally, we had shops in four different segments. We have realigned all of that and all our new shops are now built on one of two concepts—the mid-segment, where you can find many of our creations and local products, and the Damas flagship boutiques, which you can see at Dubai Mall. We aim to have about 22 of those by the end of the transformation process. Each of the new shops will be established under one of those two brands, and our existing shops—all 300 of them—will undergo a transformation to align them with one of those two concepts. We are also working hard to bring about a more advanced level of sales skills within the shops. We are partnering with GIA and have had two or three rounds of training for all our staff. We have a target of certifying everyone on the sales floor as a diamond expert by the end of 2014. Some shops might have one or two of its staff certified, but there will be at least one person with an official gemology certification in each and every shop that we have in the region.

How is Dubai performing when it comes to becoming a globally renowned shopping destination?

CN Dubai has really achieved the major objective of being perceived and looked at by GCC members and international visitors as a major shopping hub. The Dubai Mall, which is today the biggest shopping mall in the world, has played an important part in Dubai becoming firmly established on the worldwide shopping map. Dubai Mall had 75 million visitors in 2013 but I think Dubai still has an opportunity to create more shopping experiences, including high street shopping, which used to be the case 20 to 25 years ago, but over recent years the focus has shifted to malls. With Dubai becoming a more mature market, and with technology allowing us to have better control of the climate, Dubai still has an opportunity to add a wider street shopping experience. We can see this in the success of the Sheikh Mohammed Boulevard, which attracts many shoppers. I think Dubai can propose a creative way to reintroduce street shopping into the Dubai market.

AF Today, Dubai has everything to offer, from its location to its level of sophistication and infrastructure, the airports, the legal system, and the dependability of the business environment. In a nutshell, this makes it good for anyone to have an office here. In terms of the jewelry industry itself, there is not a single diamond or gold player in the world that does not have a set up here. World Expo 2020 will help Dubai achieve its vision of 20 million tourists by 2020. It essentially represents a guarantee that number will be achieved. We will see a range of hotels and shopping malls opening in that area, and that will automatically bring further retailing opportunities for Damas. In a nutshell, it means new shops, more malls, and more hotels, and hotel occupancy that will help us achieve higher sales.

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