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Modern Retail in the Middle East

3 min read

One of the joys of working in retail is the chance to work in different countries and compare retail set within a different culture, in this case, Middle East.

retail in saudi arabiaOur team was on assignment in Saudi Arabia working with the Executive Team of a multi Branded Retailer that consisted of Health & Beauty Retail, Department Stores & Hypermarkets. Our brief was to assist with the implementation of their strategy of enhanced sales and service and customer experience.

So how does retail in the Middle East compare to Australia? In our opinion very similar in some ways very different in others.

Different in terms of their approach to strategy & customer experience? In the middle east, the projects are viewed as transformation projects rather than a more tactical approach seen here. So for example in this case

  • The project was sponsored by the MD
  • The 5 Business Unit Heads set clear financial objectives and timelines that were presented at the beginning of the sessions. These were upgraded at the end of the sessions and presented to the CEO
  • The strategies were multidimensional and linked to all parts of the business – marketing, supply chain, technology, retail operations, human capital.
  • Analytics and data were the foundation for the individual strategies and informed key decisions.
  • By and large, the executive teams were a high caliber bunch, on average older and more experienced than Australia with a deep understanding of global retail trends and influences.

Similar – Saudi Arabia has a population of around 34 million, in general, their shopping malls are superior to Australia’s in that they are newer and more spacious they are similar in having the same international brand, different in that their local brands represent local culture in dress, eating and purchasing habits.

Their eCommerce is behind ours for individual retailer’s eCommerce capability, however, their eCommerce market places are similar so, for example, Souq.com, Amazons Market Place in the middle east has 24.6million hits per month, in Australia Amazon.com.au has 18.6 million monthly hits, both are the most popular market places. A factor that influences the capability of individual retailers eCommerce websites is that in Saudi most of the global brands are represented by large retail groups who have less control on the brand from a marketing and eCommerce perspective.

While in Riyadh, I visited with Arabian Centres Shopping Mall Group and had a chance to view their new mall U Walk which will open at the end of 2019.

Arabian Centres own and manager 29 Shopping Malls and this is comparable to Scentre Group in ANZ that has 41 malls.

Finally, when I am overseas, I always like to visit places of interest, in this case, a camel market on the outskirts of Riyadh.


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