Kuwait’s MH Alshaya Co is expanding into Iraq with the
launch of its first retail outlet in the war-torn country, the company said
Alshaya, the Gulf franchise holder for H&M, Starbucks
and TopShop, plans to debut the mother and baby equipment chain Mothercare in
Erbil later this year, in a bid to tap into the country’s 30 million-strong population.
“We believe it is a region with real potential and look
forward to developing a presence there in line with our agenda of growth,” a
spokesperson for Alshaya told Arabian Business.
In an effort to rebuild an economy battered by years of war,
Iraq has opened its doors to commercial investors and Gulf firms have been
among the first to respond.
Majid Al Futtaim Holding, the UAE conglomerate, plans to
open its first Carrefour store in Iraq later this year.
Dubai carrier Emirates Airlines said last week it would
launch flights to Bagdad in November as it looks to benefit from increasing
traffic on the back of reconstruction efforts in war-torn Iraq.
The airline began flights to Basra in February.
The opening is part of a wider expansion plan for
Mothercare, which said in May it would close a quarter of UK stores and focus
on overseas growth.
The firm, which issued profit warnings in January and March,
said it would focus on high growth markets like China, India, and the Middle
East, where it can benefit from higher birth rates and burgeoning middle
Mothercare operates 162 outlets in the Middle East,
including 72 in its largest regional market Saudi Arabia, under its franchise
deal with Alshaya.
"UK retailing is going through a real revolution at the
moment, particularly in the high street. Trade is being taken by out-of-town
stores and by the Internet, so there’s just fewer people shopping in town,”
said Mothercare CEO Ben Gordon.
"At the same time international is booming ... 99
percent of the world's babies are outside the UK so that's really where the
huge opportunity for Mothercare lies.”
Alshaya said in November it planned to open 1, 250 stores
over the next five years, creating an estimated 4,000 jobs.
The retail conglomerate holds the franchise for more than 50
global brands, including H&M, Debenhams, Pizza Express and Pottery Barn.
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