Fashion on Wheels

March 27, 2024 | By Rupkatha B

Lucy Gibson, Founder, Sand Dollar Dubai

Commonly cited statistics indicate that around 20% of new businesses fail during the first two years of being operational. The number goes up to 45% during the first five years and further rises to 65% during the first decade. On the other hand, based on several case studies, experts believe that every business born with an intent to solve a problem tends to do well.

One such UAE-based homegrown contemporary fashion brand Sand Dollar Dubai was launched to solve a problem. The problem was a lack of choice for luxury swimwear and resort wear that suited the founder’s style. In her words: “With 365 days of sunshine a year, sandy beaches lined with glistening skyscrapers, I came up with the idea of starting a business where people could shop for beautiful items whether they were dressing for Dubai’s beaches or bars.”

After successfully setting up standalone and online stores, the brand has now launched a ‘Boutique on Wheels’ concept, it’s first mobile store.

Sand Dollar Dubai at a Glance

  • Year of launch: 2010
  • Founder: Lucy Gibson
  • Number of Stores: 7
  • Product Portfolio: 14,000+ SKUs
  • Funding Status: Privately funded family-run business

In conversation with IMAGES RetailME, Sand Dollar Dubai Founder, Lucy Gibson shared how evolution has been central to the growth of the brand.

Let’s start with some major milestones achieved by Sand Dollar Dubai over the last decade.

In the year 2010, we launched our first store in Le Royal Meridien and in late 2010, we successfully launched our e-commerce platform. For more than 13 years, we have recorded a year-on year growth of 39%. 2023 was also an exciting year with three different milestones, all in the space of seven months – a brand-new standalone, flagship store; a styling team expansion; and the introduction of our first mobile store.

What have been some key learnings over the years pertaining to finding the right locations and reaching the right target audience?

Initially, I selected locations aligned with our resort-focused products. Then we started to learn and understand where our local resident customers lived and began opening locations accordingly. As for our audience, we use the power of social media to connect and engage with them. For instance, I like to showcase the latest drops, asking followers which pieces they like the most before ordering. This not only makes our customers feel valued but helps us to avoid over ordering stock and facing losses.

Have you faced a setback that served as a lesson while helping the brand to innovate?

Transitioning from brick-and mortar to the digital world was a significant learning curve, from various systems to building a specific team with certain roles. I think in the past few years, many businesses have gone through similar challenges. With the pandemic, a lot of brands had to act fast and shift to the digital world. That said, since the pandemic-driven lockdown was lifted, the brick-and-mortar industry has gone from strength-to-strength and footfall is back to a healthy state. We also learned that customer shopping habits and how they engage with brands have changed, so we had to navigate through this and adjust how we connect with our customers.

In a highly competitive market like the UAE what is your recipe for success?

Our recipe for success is simple – connecting and listening to our customers. To gain success, you need to understand what your customer wants, not just from a product perspective, but a lifestyle perspective too and how they want to engage with us. In the fashion world, you can’t always cater to anyone and everyone, so it’s important to identify who you want to reach.

According to you, what is a major shift that will redefine retail in 2024?

I anticipate a major shift towards hyper personalised customer engagement. Shops are no longer a transactional space; they are a place where people can connect to things that make them feel good. That’s why as a brand, we are investing a lot into how we engage with our customers.

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