Dwell diversifies beyond ‘bed and bath’ amid heightened competition


July 25, 2022 | By Shruthi Nair

Among the various dramatic shifts in consumption habits and behaviours that have come about in the past couple of years is the way people’s perspective have changed while buying things. Irrespective of the type of products – fashion, beauty, gadgets – things are broadly classified into home and non-home categories. Athleisure/WFH attire for home, fancier clothes for outside; zoom-appropriate makeup for home, colour cosmetics for outside; smart-home gadgets for, (you guessed it), home, and travel essentials for outside.

Now that the living spaces have become so important, it comes as no surprise that homewares has been one of the best performing non-essentials retail sector as it’s been elevated by extended periods inside since the outbreak of Covid-19. Ultimately, these periods have seen many consumers reassess their living spaces, and thus prioritise spending on it.

This provides a brilliant opportunity for retailers in the space and have also urged them to reassess their offerings, diversify their product ranges, and cater to a wider segment. Launched in 2003 by Liwa Trading Enterprises, Dwell has always offered inspirational home solutions including a curated collection of designer brands catering to a variety of tastes. After being a leading retailer of predominantly bed and bath products for 20 years, Dwell is now diversifying its portfolio to add more home decor and furniture to its range of offerings. With 25 stores operating currently and five new ones in the pipeline for this year, the brand aims to establish itself as the go-to homeware destination.

“We pride ourselves on bringing collections that nobody else has. That’s one of our USPs. Brands like Gant, Sanderson, Morris aren’t available anywhere else. They are all brands that do Middle Eastern sizes. My team will sit and do the designing, so we have between 20-25 designs every season that is totally exclusive to us,” said Rasool Taj, Head of Buying and Merchandising at Liwa Trading.

Be Unique, Bespoke

When it comes to homeware and retail in general, there are three terms that have taken precedence – sustainability, bespoke, and local.

Personalisation has always been at the core of Dwell’s strategies. Under the brand’s ‘Bespoke Dwell’ initiative, consumers are empowered to turn their home’s vision into reality. As people are working from and spending more time at home, there is the desire to decorate their homes to reflect their own personalities.

“It is about that individual bespoke element. You can come in and buy a bed in any size you want and in any fabric you like, but we are also in tune with the fact that customers want everything quicker. So you can get it custom-made and not wait two months for it,” she said.

Attracting Gen Z

Social media is particularly important for inspiration at the start of the purchasing journey. This, coupled with the rapid growth of e-commerce in the recent years has changed consumer expectations. Offering a customer-centric service has become increasingly important to keep customers loyal to the brand. This includes offering a seamless experience not just offline but online as well.

“We’re really trying to cater to the customer that wants to do everything online and offer the same kind of experience as we would in-store. But how do we get this kind of touchy-feely essence that you get when you’re sat on the sofa in the store as you would online? We’re concentrating on the features of the product, close-ups, and other such features for our e-commerce audience.”

In the era of fast internet; consumers want their homes to evolve rapidly too. Dwell is also creating complete looks and providing creative solutions to their consumers.

“We’re almost saying – there you go, buy the look! We’ve got everything from your curtains to the sofa to the rugs. We can provide everything that they need!”

Competition Galore

According to Homewares Market Trends, depending on distribution channel, the specialty store segment was valued at $287.54 billion in 2020, and is expected to reach $414.45 billion by 2028, with a CAGR of 5.1%.

With the growing preference for specialty stores, most retailers are trying to diversify their product offerings. But something that Dwell has maintained is that all new brands are in-line with the organisation’s standards and the Middle East consumer’s preferences.

“We are very conscious of the fact that we are in the Middle East, there’s a certain taste and style that needs to be catered for. But we do also know that we want to always bring in brands that are different,” she said.

Social media has also been central to the rise of ‘lifestyle brands’ in homewares. There is a strong market for trend-driven, fashion-forward homewares, and a wave of new entrants, spearheaded by clothing brands – H&M, Zara, PLT – are tapping into this market.

As Dwell continues to onboard new brands to stay ahead of the competition, the newer offerings are aimed more towards the younger consumers. There is also a major shift from traditional to more modern styles – specially in stores that have recently opened such as the City Center Mirdif store.

“We are seeing a real shift as well from a very traditional customer to something a bit more modern and we have to cater for that”

Tech-ing It Forward

As per a report by EZDubai, the fastest-growing sectors in the e-commerce industry over the next three years will be homewares and home furnishings, food and beverages and media products.

It comes as no surprise that all major homeware brands, including Dwell, have launched their e-commerce portals or are working towards it. But there is still so much more that technology can offer to this industry.

“Even though we are creating bigger stores, we have got 200 brand new pieces of furniture. We’re never going to be able to showcase all of that – we’ll always have a limitation with the stores. So that’s where we’re using the online experience to enhance the store. We have these giant screens installed where, if a customer is interested in a sofa, we can show it to them, but we can also show them all the other pieces.”

“The other thing that we’ve just launched is where we have online exclusives as well. We have QR codes across the store that will take you straight to the website. However, we don’t want people to stop coming to our stores. We love the fact that people come to our stores, but equally, we really want to push the fact that we’ve got a lot more products online as well”, Rasool concluded.

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