Retail in a hotel: Bringing European fashion to Dubai’s hotel lobbies

November 29, 2020 | By Shruthi Nair

Imagine this. A quaint little home tucked in a quiet corner of a European country owned by a young girl who loves bright colors, feminine prints, and pretty decor. You’re probably thinking of Vienne in France or the Brussels countryside or perhaps Santorini. Now can you picture something like that in the heart of Dubai?

Coralie Francois, didn’t just visualize something like that in Dubai but even brought it to life four years ago with her fashion boutique concept store Maison Clad. Originally from Belgium, Francois started her career in Dubai as a fashion buyer sourcing the Balciaga’s, Stella McCartney’s, and Alexander McQueen’s but soon realised that ironically, there is a visible gap in the fashion offerings, in the fashion capital of this region.

“After working in fashion and luxury in Dubai, I realized that there is a big appetite for fashion, but you mainly have luxury and fast fashion and there was a gap for a category in the middle”, she said. “When I came to Dubai I was a little lost in the big malls etc. and was looking for something a bit more authentic, like a boutique you would find in Europe. And with that idea is how I launched Maison Clad 4 years ago”.

Valued at AED 4million today, the concept has certainly taken off as Francois has managed to expand to 4 stores – one in Vida Hotel Downtown, two in The Collective by Ripe, and another in the Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi – in the last four years.

“I started with aed10,000 just for the first collections, which was put up as a pop-up in a corner in the Vida hotel. We ended up doing 4 pop-up stores there and after the 4th one, we never removed the store. I borrowed AED40,000 from a friend as I needed a bigger collection and a bigger investment for the store too. The store was successful from the beginning itself so after two months I was able to pay my friend back. And now with the profits from the store – a margin of 50-60% – I buy new collections every month”, she explained.

Hotels for retail

It’s not uncommon or even new to see small retailers opening shop in hotels. We’ve seen some of the major hotel chains partnering up with small fashion boutiques, supermarkets, art galleries, and souvenir stores to enhance their value proposition to the tourists and their hospitality guests. When asked about why Francois chose hotels over malls to open her stores, she had a few reasons including cost, relaxed customer experience and most interestingly, parking.

“I am a small business so I need to think smart. We would have a lot of competition in the mall as well as a lot of costs, if we were to set up in a mall”, she explained.

“I also wanted my customers to feel at home when they visited my stores. In the stores we have in the hotels, we also have restaurants so I can offer my customers some coffee or they can come with a friend and get some lunch together and have a “girly experience”. So I chose the hotel because it allows me to have a smaller space, it’s more cozy and convenient with no parking issues, which is a huge problem with the malls here. I don’t want my customers to waste time finding a parking space or walking 15 minutes to find (or miss) my store”.

Online yet personal

Despite being in hotels where tourists, international visitors, and temporarily staying guests have better access to the store, Maison Clad’s concept attracts more repeat and loyal customers instead of the one-time shoppers.

“90% of my customers are loyal customers who live in Dubai and come to us regularly. The tourists are definitely a plus for us but they are not the customers that made Maison Clad. I also go to every single store of mine and know all of my customers and I keep that in mind while buying the clothes from wholesalers”, she said.

Given the emphasis she puts on meeting people personally and creating a bond with each of her customers, the lockdown period did pose it’s unique challenges to her business model. However, she used the 3 initial months of Covid to take her business online, diversify her product offerings, and get more flexible with her business model.

“March, April and May were very challenging as I wasn’t online before the pandemic – I only had physical retail stores. During the lockdown, I decided to launch the website and by May we were able to sell everything online. We had the same kind of service and offers that we had in-store online as well. After the lockdown I noticed a lot of women were wearing sportswear and needed more homeward collections. So in July we launched Maison Clad sportswear in a corner in the Collective by Ripe”, she said.

Apart from that, she even started reaching out to her customers and offering her services in their homes. She was turning her shopper’s homes into stores and trial rooms. “We are also bringing our collections to people’s homes and trying it with them if they allow me inside their homes. Even now I book appointments with my customers to do the styling at their homes”, she said.

With four employees, four physical stores, one website, and an operation that is seeing a 50% sales growth year-on-year, Coralie Francois is all set to redefine the boutique fashion landscape of Dubai in a humble yet eloquent way.



Previous Article Next Article


UAE gears up to celebrate this year’s National Day celebrations in the 

Continue Reading

November 28, 2021 | By Zubina Ahmed

UAE-based Etisalat Group has signed an agreement with elGrocer, a leading online 

Continue Reading

November 18, 2021 | By RetailME Bureau announced that the 11.11 sale is back once again this year 

Continue Reading

November 8, 2021 | By RetailME Bureau

Abu Dhabi Cooperative Society’s COOP City store is now open in Lake 

Continue Reading

November 3, 2021 | By RetailME Bureau

Union Coop, a consumer cooperative in the UAE, revealed that 78% of 

Continue Reading

August 24, 2021 | By Jibran Chouguley

Union Coop has opened its 23rd branch within the UAE in Jumeirah 

Continue Reading

August 2, 2021 | By Jibran Chouguley

Nando’s has revealed their revamped Sheikh Zayed Road outlet where newcomers and 

Continue Reading

July 8, 2021 | By Jibran Chouguley

UAE-based Al Maya Group announced that it will be boosting import of 

Continue Reading

June 24, 2021 | By RetailME Bureau

UAE-based grocery retail chain, Grandiose has opened its first hypermarket in Abu 

Continue Reading

June 2, 2021 | By RetailME Bureau

UAE-based Carrefour announced its theme and plans for Ramadan 2021. The brand 

Continue Reading

March 31, 2021 | By RetailME Bureau

Locally owned supermarket Spinneys celebrates 60 years of doing business in the 

Continue Reading

March 9, 2021 | By RetailME Bureau
Almarai, Carrefour, Emirates have the most loyal customers

UAE-based Carrefour will become the first retailer in the region to offer new levels 

Continue Reading

February 22, 2021 | By RetailME Bureau

Download Images RetailME Magazine