By Lubna Hamdan
Aldo Bensadoun is the founder of shoe giant the Aldo Group
Christian Louboutin might make high end shoes that sell for thousands of dollars, but he’s got nothing on the man behind the Aldo Group, Aldo Bensadoun. While Louboutin is worth an eye opening $85 million, Bensadoun is worth a staggering $1.7 billion. Having opened the Aldo Group in 1972, a Canadian corporate for fashion footwear and accessories, Bensadoun now owns 2,200 stores in 95 countries.
He has recently set up his empire’s flagship store, and the largest shoe store in the world, in Dubai’s Festival City mall. Naturally, we had to have a word with the billionaire...
So, you’re Aldo behind Aldo, one of today’s global shoe giants. What got you into the shoe business in the first place?
Well it was a family affair. My parents were in the shoe business, now my children are in the shoe business, so it’s a third generation business really.
You recently opened your Aldo flagship store in the Dubai Festival City mall. What’s special about this store in particular?
It is the largest shoe store in the world and it is 8,000 square feet. Our second largest that we have is in London and it is 7,500 square feet.
Why did you decide to open the world’s largest store in Dubai as opposed to elsewhere in the world?
Well we thought that since Dubai has the world’s tallest tower, the world’s largest mall, the world’s biggest fountain, so it deserved the world’s largest shoe store as well. Dubai is also very international, it has the biggest airport in the world after Heathrow, so there are a lot of people coming to Dubai, and they like to shop here.
What about your firm’s expansion plans? Do you intend to open more stores in other parts of the Middle East in the near future?
Yes, we’re actually investing $70 million to double the number of shops that we have in the GCC. So, right now we have 140 stores in the GCC, we want to double that number to 300 in the next five years.
You specialise in shoes and accessories. In recent years, you opened independent Aldo accessories shops. Have you ever considered expanding into clothing as well?
No, we like to be focused. We don’t want to spread ourselves too thin. We realised that we’re very good at working with shoes, so we’re going to continue doing that.
You were quoted in an interview saying that there is a transformation of fashion due to social media. Can you elaborate on that point?
Yes, the customer has been changing in the past five years because of social media and the digital revolution. People used to only shop in stores, now they shop online. This changed things for us, too. Now e-commerce is important for us to reach our customer. So now we have an Aldo app, we have an online store, we ship shoes to your house, etc.
Speaking of customers, what do you think of the Middle Eastern customer in terms of spending behaviour and fashion trends?
The Middle Eastern customer is great because they simply love shopping and going out. They’re always up to date with the latest trends. They just like to follow fashion!
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Fantastic company. Great place to make money