CEO’s Agenda: Unlocking the Treasure Chest of Retail Opportunities


January 19, 2024 | By RetailME Bureau

CEOs Conclave at SRF 2023

Finding the treasure chest of opportunities needs years of journeying through the unknown realm. And the right vision and strategy forms the key to unlock it. There are a multitude of factors that contribute to the seamless operation of a retail business. At the Saudi Retail Forum 2023 we brought together some leading voices from the retail fraternity to talk about staying attuned to the evolving trends, balancing the societal norms with right efforts and, importantly, how women in retail are driving business with success.

Discussing the future of retail with session moderator Adgild Hop, Market Lead | Partner | Retail, Deloitte the panelists touched upon breakthrough growth and possibilities in the region and what they see as changemarkers.

To begin with Shehim Muhammed, Director, Lulu Hypermarkets mentioned how the KSA market is migrating through a wave of change at this moment as compared to 10 years back when Lulu entered the market. The push is towards making retail part of the Vision 2030 plans which is further helping give a bigger push to organised retail. He mentioned that the organised retail equation as compared to unorganised retail is only getting better and the percentage dominance of organised retail is increasing, which is now at 50-50 as compared to before.

Neeraj Teckchandani, Group Chief Executive Officer, Apparel Group touched upon the concept of customisation and community-building and how it is at the top of every retailer’s mind at the moment. Majorly fashion as an industry is embracing the concept of customisation and trying to offer personalised products and services to customers just to build a community of like-minded people. This trend is picking up, he said, and gathering a lot of momentum, alongside sustainable practices. These are some of the significant pillars ruling retail sentiments. Another big aspect to note, he said, is the concept of launching a separate capsule or line which is 100% sustainable. Most fashion retailers are doing this to diversify and add to their existing portfolio. 

May Kanounji, Chief Executive Officer, Blooming touched upon a very important thought and highlighted, “If you are building a brand for tomorrow and portraying your brand as the ‘brand of choice’ for GenZ then sustainability is not an option anymore, it is a must. In KSA pricing is a factor of consideration and customers don’t like to pay a premium or bear that extra cost when it comes to investing in a sustainable product. However, in this part of the world social responsibility is a big factor and sustainability is a key trend to align with social causes and responsibly stand up to the situation to create a brand that is futuristic and ready to have a youth-centric customer base.” 

Mohamed Naji Al Assaf, Country Chief Executive Officer, Carrefour Saudi Arabia brought another side of the story to life and said,“There is a wide-spread notion that grocery as a segment does not attract many women and normally women stay away from this sector. However, such is not true when it comes to Carrefour, and it is really heartwarming to see that women are not only employed in key positions within the team but they also lead and take over the role of a store manager wholeheartedly. In the Kingdom the concept of women workforce is getting a big facelift, and we are happy to see that more women are coming and taking over ranks and positions that were earlier thought to be men centric.”

Toufic Kreidieh Founding Partner and CEO, Brands For Less added, “Customer listening is a big factor in today’s day and age. We cannot work and operate in isolation; we need to work alongside the customer and keep our ears open to hear them. We must understand what they want, plan that and execute through the right strategies. Sustainability is one such topic that every brand should closely understand and pay attention to in order to stitch it into their plans. For us value starts with offering customers products at the right price, but never by compromising on sustainability.”

Tawhid Abdulla, Founder and CEO, Jawhara Jewellery spoke in favour of nurturing talent and the homegrown ecosystem. “Local brands and homegrown entities have a huge potential, we have lived with the realities of international brands and already know their strengths. However, now it is time for us to shift focus to homegrown names to nurture them and help them grab the spotlight. Owing to their size, normally these brands are misunderstood and not given the right space in the brick-and-mortar landscape and shopping malls will not allow them to take center stage. But, when pushed out of the offline ecosystem, these brands can create their niche online through e-commerce. So, it is time to embrace their capabilities and support them to grow!”

Nicki Wilson Chief Executive Officer, Genie.ae also agreed with the retail leaders and highlighted that the “entrepreneurial trend” is slowly picking up and coming under the spotlight. Women especially are becoming more forthcoming when it comes to starting something of their own or joining the industry at a higher rank.

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