Retail in a hotel: Bringing European fashion to Dubai’s hotel lobbies

November 29, 2020 | By RetailME Bureau

Imagine this. A quaint little home tucked in a quiet corner of a European country owned by a young girl who loves bright colors, feminine prints, and pretty decor. You’re probably thinking of Vienne in France or the Brussels countryside or perhaps Santorini. Now can you picture something like that in the heart of Dubai?

Coralie Francois, didn’t just visualize something like that in Dubai but even brought it to life four years ago with her fashion boutique concept store Maison Clad. Originally from Belgium, Francois started her career in Dubai as a fashion buyer sourcing the Balciaga’s, Stella McCartney’s, and Alexander McQueen’s but soon realised that ironically, there is a visible gap in the fashion offerings, in the fashion capital of this region.

“After working in fashion and luxury in Dubai, I realized that there is a big appetite for fashion, but you mainly have luxury and fast fashion and there was a gap for a category in the middle”, she said. “When I came to Dubai I was a little lost in the big malls etc. and was looking for something a bit more authentic, like a boutique you would find in Europe. And with that idea is how I launched Maison Clad 4 years ago”.

Valued at AED 4million today, the concept has certainly taken off as Francois has managed to expand to 4 stores – one in Vida Hotel Downtown, two in The Collective by Ripe, and another in the Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi – in the last four years.

“I started with aed10,000 just for the first collections, which was put up as a pop-up in a corner in the Vida hotel. We ended up doing 4 pop-up stores there and after the 4th one, we never removed the store. I borrowed AED40,000 from a friend as I needed a bigger collection and a bigger investment for the store too. The store was successful from the beginning itself so after two months I was able to pay my friend back. And now with the profits from the store – a margin of 50-60% – I buy new collections every month”, she explained.

Hotels for retail

It’s not uncommon or even new to see small retailers opening shop in hotels. We’ve seen some of the major hotel chains partnering up with small fashion boutiques, supermarkets, art galleries, and souvenir stores to enhance their value proposition to the tourists and their hospitality guests. When asked about why Francois chose hotels over malls to open her stores, she had a few reasons including cost, relaxed customer experience and most interestingly, parking.

“I am a small business so I need to think smart. We would have a lot of competition in the mall as well as a lot of costs, if we were to set up in a mall”, she explained.

“I also wanted my customers to feel at home when they visited my stores. In the stores we have in the hotels, we also have restaurants so I can offer my customers some coffee or they can come with a friend and get some lunch together and have a “girly experience”. So I chose the hotel because it allows me to have a smaller space, it’s more cozy and convenient with no parking issues, which is a huge problem with the malls here. I don’t want my customers to waste time finding a parking space or walking 15 minutes to find (or miss) my store”.

Online yet personal

Despite being in hotels where tourists, international visitors, and temporarily staying guests have better access to the store, Maison Clad’s concept attracts more repeat and loyal customers instead of the one-time shoppers.

“90% of my customers are loyal customers who live in Dubai and come to us regularly. The tourists are definitely a plus for us but they are not the customers that made Maison Clad. I also go to every single store of mine and know all of my customers and I keep that in mind while buying the clothes from wholesalers”, she said.

Given the emphasis she puts on meeting people personally and creating a bond with each of her customers, the lockdown period did pose it’s unique challenges to her business model. However, she used the 3 initial months of Covid to take her business online, diversify her product offerings, and get more flexible with her business model.

“March, April and May were very challenging as I wasn’t online before the pandemic – I only had physical retail stores. During the lockdown, I decided to launch the website and by May we were able to sell everything online. We had the same kind of service and offers that we had in-store online as well. After the lockdown I noticed a lot of women were wearing sportswear and needed more homeward collections. So in July we launched Maison Clad sportswear in a corner in the Collective by Ripe”, she said.

Apart from that, she even started reaching out to her customers and offering her services in their homes. She was turning her shopper’s homes into stores and trial rooms. “We are also bringing our collections to people’s homes and trying it with them if they allow me inside their homes. Even now I book appointments with my customers to do the styling at their homes”, she said.

With four employees, four physical stores, one website, and an operation that is seeing a 50% sales growth year-on-year, Coralie Francois is all set to redefine the boutique fashion landscape of Dubai in a humble yet eloquent way.

Previous Article Next Article



Laura Manning, Managing Director & Founder, BRW Society

Launched in 2019 by Laura Manning, UAE-based homegrown brand BRW Society completes 

Continue Reading

April 5, 2024 | By Rupkatha B
Rajiv Warrier, Chief Executive Officer, Choithrams

Since the launch of its first store in the UAE five decades 

Continue Reading

March 20, 2024 | By RetailME Bureau
Dr. Dhananjay Datar Chairman & Managing Director ADIL Trading Co. LLC

Dr. Dhananjay Datar Chairman & Managing Director ADIL Trading Co. LLC holds 

Continue Reading

February 29, 2024 | By Rupkatha B
Hani Weiss, Chief Executive Officer, Majid Al Futtaim Retail

In 1995 regional retail conglomerate Majid Al Futtaim introduced Carrefour to the 

Continue Reading

February 26, 2024 | By RetailME Bureau
Prashant Parameswaran, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Tata Consumer Soulfull

Tata Soulfull, a leading name in the ‘good-for-you’ snacks and breakfast cereals 

Continue Reading

February 22, 2024 | By Rupkatha B
Jean-Luc Graziato, Chief Commercial Officer of Majid Al Futtaim – Retail and Alia Al Harmoodi, Acting CEO of the Environment, Health and Safety Agency

Majid Al Futtaim – Retail, which holds the exclusive franchise to operate 

Continue Reading

February 20, 2024 | By RetailME Bureau
Krishna Dhanak, Managing Director, Alpen Capital

In an exclusive interview Krishna Dhanak, Managing Director, Alpen Capital shared insights 

Continue Reading

February 19, 2024 | By Rupkatha B
Majed M. Al-Tahan, Co-founder & Managing Director, Danube Online

As digital transformation across the retail industry continues to accelerate, the expectations 

Continue Reading

December 19, 2023 | By RetailME Bureau
Frederic Levy-Perrault, CEO, Al Raya Supermarket

Saudi Arabia-based grocery retail chain Al Raya Supermarket serves over 100,000 customers 

Continue Reading

December 15, 2023 | By RetailME Bureau
Ahmad AR. BinDawood, Chief Executive Officer, BinDawood Holding

BinDawood Holding has a rich Saudi heritage, spanning over 50 years, 38 

Continue Reading

December 13, 2023 | By RetailME Bureau
Majid Al Futtaim Retail commits to Collaborative Impact Goals at COP28

Majid Al Futtaim Retail, which owns the exclusive rights to operate Carrefour 

Continue Reading

December 8, 2023 | By Rupkatha B
BinDawood Holding Company earns Honorary Shield for Compliance Excellence

BinDawood Holding Company has earned an Honorary Shield, a distinguished recognition by 

Continue Reading

December 6, 2023 | By RetailME Bureau

Download Images RetailME Magazine