Giordano completes three decades in the Middle East…what’s the recipe for success?


April 24, 2023 | By Rupkatha B

Giordano completes three decades in the Middle East…so, what’s the recipe for success?

Global fashion brand Giordano known for its everyday wardrobe essentials entered the UAE in 1993. Back then there were two major malls BurJuman and Al Ghurair Centre and then came City Centre Deira in 1995. There were some strong local brands and a few global retailers in the market at that time which made it easier for Giordano to get into strategic locations.

The support from “forward thinking partners” drove Giordano’s rapid expansion in the UAE, foray into Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries within two years of opening the first store in Dubai. Three decades on, currently Giordano Middle East operates 275 stores across the region with a strong online presence.

What’s the brand’s recipe for success over the decades, we asked Ishwar Chugani, CEO and Managing Director, Giordano Middle East and Member of the Management Committee of Giordano International.

“In our business, it is essential to have a ‘merchant’ mind set as opposed to a ‘corporate’ way of thinking,” he responded. “A merchant looks at life, trends, cultures and certainly products in a very different way than the rest of the world. A merchant can get inside the skin of their customers, identify their needs and develop a deep understanding – you could also call it sixth sense – of products their customers’ desire.”

The combination of deep understanding of customers, coupled with intuition and market knowledge make merchants risk takers who also [sometimes] have the courage to walk away from a product even when numbers indicate demand. “A merchant is willing to make mistakes, but one who plans for blunders and manages to find profitable ways to get out of a problem,” Chugani explained.

As Giordano’s first employee in the region who was involved in everything from buying, site selection to recruiting people in the early days Chugani spent a lot of time on the shopfloor that helped him gain invaluable knowledge about what customers needed. This deep understanding of the market and customer needs is one of the factors driving the brand’s growth.

Other crucial ingredients include people, both staff and shoppers, consistent quality of products and services and support from partners and stakeholders including government and local authorities in each country where it operates. These ingredients when combined is Giordano’s recipe for success.

Navigating challenges, embracing changes

Having said that over the past three decades Giordano Middle East has also confronted and navigated multiple challenges in a market that’s crowded, competitive and ever-changing. Add to that rising costs of doing business, emergence of newer shopping channels, coupled with supply chain disruptions making the retail environment even more challenging.

“But tough times encourage companies to go back to their roots and focus on what they do best. For example, pandemic driven downturn only highlighted tiny fractures of a business that went unnoticed during the good times,” Chugani observed.

At the same time, it is crucial to innovate constantly by embracing change, empowering people, engaging with customers and leveraging technology and new channels of commerce.

“In the past, it was all about becoming a bigger retailer and most major brands wanted to open bigger stores and add more square feet. With the rise of e-commerce, the mindset has changed. Today, profitable growth can come from contraction, by closing unprofitable stores and pulling out of poorly performing business areas. So, there is no single magic formula that works for all retailers. We must create our own formula for success.”

Retailing in the era of experience

Commenting on what retailing looks like in the era of experience Chugani said, the future of retail is being built around the notion that what a brand sells is less important than how they sell. Forget about product differentiation, the future of retail is about creating distinct experiences necessitating retailers to think beyond discounts, miles or points.

“It is up to us to ensure that factors such as customer service, health and safety and technology integration are of the highest quality so that our customers’ shopping journey is seamless and delightful. In addition, we must be mindful that today’s consumers are cost and time conscious too. Thus, our retail offering should also be relevant, functional and affordable.”

“Your competitors may be able to match your products and services, feature for feature, but the experience your brand offers is yours alone, and that leads to a true competitive advantage,” he emphasised.

To create such experiences, retailers must build genuine connection with their customers. A big reason why Giordano through its loyalty programme ‘World without Strangers’ seeks to develop enduring trust and strong relationships with consumers across borders and cultures.

Towards the next 30 and beyond

Over the past 12 months Giordano Middle East opened 10 stores in the region with an additional 10 stores in new markets including Bangladesh, Ghana, Pakistan, Kenya and Egypt.

The brand will undertake continuous expansion through franchising with Africa and Central Asia as major focus areas. “We also plan to set up 50 points of sale in India by end of this year operating there on a licensing arrangement,” Chugani revealed.  

The brand’s overall sale-to-date in 2022 was up by 29% as compared to 2021. In terms of products the total quantity of goods sold in 2022 exceeded five million pieces in the Middle East, which is much higher than any of the previous years.

Moreover, sustainability will continue to be a key focus area for Giordano as the brand strengthens its commitment to creating a positive impact in the communities it operates in.

“We aim to achieve this by supporting charitable organisations and causes, ensuring that workers producing our products are treated with fairness and respect; and always conducting business in a responsible manner. It’s important to remember that today’s consumers are not only interested in knowing what companies are offering them but also what organisations are doing for the society and how they are giving back to the community.”

In summation, asked for a word that aptly sums up Chugani’s three-decade old journey with Giordano Middle East so far, he said, “Its simplicity!”

“Need a polo, a pair of jeans or khakis, or something colourful? You’ll find it at Giordano.”

“That’s what I mean by simplicity from which all our other values – including speed, agility, convenience, trust – tend to follow,” he concluded.

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