Babyshop on track for 300 stores in new countries
Dubai - Online sales, social media boost business at children's concept store.
Babyshop plans to have 300 stores by the end of 2017 and expand into three new countries with major focus on Saudi Arabia and Africa, its top official said.
The children's concept store currently has 235 outlets and the number will hit 270 by the end of this year.
"We are moving ahead with expansion and are in negotiations for opening stores in many countries in Africa. Basically we would like to grow in the Middle East and North Africa region, that's natural expansion for us," Babyshop chief executive Vinod Talreja told Khaleej Times in an interview.
Babyshop, a part of retail and hospitality group Landmark, opened a new market with Nigeria in January. "In December we opened a new market with Thailand. Every year we open two to three new markets. So we are growing and our expansion plans are intact. We will be opening more stores in the GCC as well as in North Africa," he said.
Regarding opening stores in China, he said it's a big market and "anything can happen".
To a question how the global economic slowdown will affect growth plans, Talreja said: "In business there are times that are tougher than other times but that does not mean brands do not expand. We are a company that has been expanding consistently for the last so many years. So our growth plans will not be affected by any short-term economic slowdown as these are laid out with long-term future strategy in mind."
|At a glance|
> 1973 Babyshop launched in Bahrain
> 1990 first store in the UAE
> 235 stores in 19 countries> 47 stores in the UAE
> 2.9 million total sq ft of retail space
> 4 million active customers
> 150% growth in online sales year-on-year
> 70,000 unique products retailed every year
"We believe wherever there are families, wherever there are children, there is scope of a babyshop. Especially in Saudi Arabia there are still some cities where we do not have a presence so we are expanding there. We want to be a part of the new malls that are coming up in Saudi Arabia and Qatar." "We want to be the number one brand in the world and we are moving in the right direction. We are the market leaders in the countries in which we operate in terms of number of stores and square feet of area," Talreja added.
The biggest market of the region's leading concept store is Saudi Arabia with 116 shops followed by the UAE with 47. It also has outlets in Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Sudan, Pakistan, Thailand and Kazakhstan. Babyshop has four million active loyal customers across the GCC and Levant countries. So it's no surprise that loyalty means a lot to the brand.
"In business it's very important to create brand loyalty. Affordability, shopping experience, quality, consistency and customer service are added values which make customers loyal to a brand. Pricing also plays a very important role and Babyshop is known for providing very good value for money," Talreja said. "Brand loyalty is very strong in this region. I have seen children who used to shop with us now bring their children to Babyshop. That's the kind of brand loyalty we have created." The Shukran rewards programme of the Landmark Group is providing a further boost to brand loyalty with four million registered customers.
"Babyshop occupies a very unique position in the market. We are a one-stop-shop for children's needs from zero to 16 years. We specifically cater to children up to 12 years. The teenage category is something that every brand is working hard to capture. For the last five years we have been growing in double digits in this category."
Social media has a big impact on a brand's business, Talreja said, and keeps "us on our toes all the time". "Many times we see mothers sharing their views about our products on social media. So it does has an impact on business as they become our brand ambassadors," he said. Babyshop is one of the leading omni-channel children's retailers in the region, offering its full assortment online in the UAE. Online sales have gone by 150 per cent year-on-year.
"We launched an online store two years ago and it is growing very well. People are becoming more aware of the concept and convenience of online shopping. They also go online to check what is available but may end up buying the product physically from a store."
Babyshop was established in 1973 in Bahrain and opened its first store in the UAE in 1990 in Sharjah. It offers the largest collection of children's merchandise under one roof in the Arab world, with over 70,000 unique products retailed every year.
"We source products from around the world - from Canada to Indonesia to South Korea. The major source market is Asia with China, India, South Korea and Taiwan the main countries. The quality is dictated by us so the product is always consistent irrespective of the source market," Talreja said.