Qatari family business Abu Issa Holding, reportedly, plans to expand into Iran in 2017, opening stores in Tehran selling watches and confectionery as the market opens up after the lifting of sanctions.
“It’s an obvious expansion for our business. We will start with five-six stores in Tehran. We plan to open a similar number every year for the next five years and also in the city of Isfahan, which we expect to become a touristic hub in coming years,” shares Ashraf Abu Issa, chairman and chief executive of Abu Issa Holding that introduced luxury watches and skincare products to Qatar way back in the 1990s. It now employs 4,000 staff and supplies over 250 brands in fashion, perfume, cosmetics, leather goods and electronics around the region.
Abu Issa Holding plans to serve as a link between Middle East-based manufacturers and distributors of luxury items, often Western brands, to Iranian partners. In fact, Abu Issa has spent two years establishing contact and negotiating business terms with the Iranians.
Once the stores in Tehran are running – the first store is expected to open by second quarter of 2017 – the company plans to use Dubai’s Jebel Ali business free zone as a distribution base.
Commenting on future expansion, Abu Issa says, “It’s not easy to compete in that market. We don’t want to be too aggressive at the beginning – we want to understand first how the market goes. In addition, Iran was closed for some time so there is not a lot of data – numbers and information – out there. Even the government is not sure about some procedures like custom duties and categorisation of products, and how far they will protect local industries…”