b8ta introduces retail-as-a-service to the UAE

Rupkatha Bhowmick

Launched in partnership with luxury retailer Chalhoub Group, b8ta has brought its retail-as-a-service concept to the Middle East market, its first location outside of the US – where it has a 30-store network. Its first stop is in the UAE at The Dubai Mall, located across the Apple store on the first floor.  Specialising in creating engaging experiences within the brick-and-mortar environment, b8ta is all about delighting customers with a wide choice under one roof.

For the first round, b8ta in the UAE introduced over 50% of brands and products from its US stores. “The business model itself – retail-as-a-service – is new in this region. There was need for an incubation period to introduce the concept and gauge resonance,” observed Patrick Chalhoub, CEO, Chalhoub Group. “And what we have seen is very encouraging; since b8ta opened in December 2019, we started seeing considerable interest on part of retailers as well as customers to be part of this unique model.”

The b8ta store in The Dubai Mall currently has over 80 products on display – the maximum capacity is 100. From chic wedding band lookalike fitness rings from Motiv to fascinating digital frame. There are eco-friendly Nanopresso and self-cleaning LARQ water bottle and purification system. What’s heartening to see is the presence of Dubai-born start-ups like Ryokō Bags rubbing shoulders with TUMI. The Beauty Nation corner and the Whirl Trio Curling Iron are impressive. There is also a corner to design your own fragrance.

Beauty, travel and technology are among the highlight categories in the store. “We have seen significant consumer engagement around the Whirl Trio Curling Iron. Beauty Nation’s curation is also working quite well,” Chalhoub shared.

b8ta’s dynamic model enables newness frequently. Leasing ranges from a week to a month and even a year. But the important criterion is to have an engaging story. “It could be Google testing a new product or a start-up showcasing its range. It could also be any brand from our Greenhouse incubator programme, if they offer the discovery, experience and engagement propositions,” Chalhoub observed.

A few words on b8ta’s fee structure; the brands pay a certain fee for space they occupy in the store. In this context, b8ta president, Phillip Raub emphasised on following a holistic approach, going beyond charging the brands a specified fee only for space. “Our ultimate goal is for the brands at b8ta to be successful in the long-term, to grow and expand. That’s why we create marketing programmes and organise in-store initiatives, all integrated within that fee.”

Quite easily qualifying as a ‘store of tomorrow’, b8ta is elevating the UAE retail market and has clear triggers for expansion. Commenting on what’s next, Raub said, “We are looking to expand across the entire region. The plan is to open more stores in 2020 in high footfall locations, within the UAE and the GCC.”

“Through b8ta, we have introduced something unique to the regional market. So far, our partners, brands as well as customers are happy with the level of engagement. They are looking for more stores. That doesn’t mean there will be hundreds of b8ta stores, but the regional market has an appetite for a few more,” Chalhoub confirmed.

Read the full article in the March edition of RetailME