UAE, Saudi bright spots as Middle Eastern retailers face challenges due to geopolitical tension

Brands in the UAE and the region have been advised to create the right awareness schemes that they’re deemed neutral

by

Waheed Abbas

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Image used for illustrative purpose. Photo: File
Image used for illustrative purpose. Photo: File

Published: Tue 23 Apr 2024, 6:45 PM

Retailers in the Middle East that have franchises of Western brands are facing a tough time, but the UAE and Saudi Arabia are still bright spots.

Brands in the UAE and the region have been advised to create the right awareness schemes that they’re deemed “neutral” as the market is open and all brands are welcome to operate here.


John Hadden, CEO of Alshaya Group, said there are huge opportunities in the region GDP growth of the region is above four per cent.

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“At the moment, it is challenging due to geopolitical tension in the region that has definitely affected some consumer sentiment that we operate in. But I am very bullish about the markets in the future. With related to GCC, we strongly believe in four markets — Qatar, Kuwait, UAE and Saudi Arabia. They are drivers of any business that you have in this region. If you want to be successful here, you have to focus on those markets, especially UAE and Saudi Arabia. At the moment, the UAE is the strongest market in the GCC. This market is booming and is on fire in terms of population growth and tourism,” Hadden said during The Retail Summit in Dubai on Tuesday.

Reuters last month reported that Alshaya Group, which owns a franchise of Starbucks in the region, planned to lay off 2,000 people as some businesses suffered from consumer boycotts linked to the Gaza war.

The GCC population is 55 million and over half of them live in Saudi Arabia and over 50 per cent are under the age of 35 years across the region, said the CEO of Alshaya Group, which own and operates over 4,000 stores in the region.

The annual two-day Retail Summit began in Dubai on Tuesday with a large number of industry executives taking part and attending the summit.

Senior executives of AlBaik, Apparel Group, eyewa, Amazon, MAF Retail and many other brands will attend the summit at Atlantis The Palm.

Faisal Juma Khalfan Belhoul, vice-chairman of Dubai Chambers, the consumer is always the winner and he is going to decide going to impact the industry.

“Dubai is an open market and all brands are welcome. But at the end of the day, the brands need to create the right awareness schemes to ensure that deemed as neutral brands. Because consumer sees them as affiliated with certain political agendas, which will impact their success. The brand owners themselves will have to ensure that they protect themselves. But the market is open,” Belhoul said on the sidelines of the conference.

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