Some of the world's leading retailers discussed the rapid expansion of the Gulf's retail industry at the World Retail Congress, which took take place in Barcelona, Spain, from March 28-30.
Some of the biggest players in the region's retail sector, including Mohammed Alshaya, chairman, M.H. Alshaya Co, and Tawhid Mohd Taher Abdullah, managing director, Damas, discussed the opportunities for international and domestic players during a series of sessions devoted to the Middle East retail sector.
"Since the launch of our retail division more than twenty years ago, opportunities for growth in the dynamic Middle East region have grown exponentially," said Mohammed Alshaya. Prior to the conference, Alshaya said he intended to discuss some of the challenges in the region's retail sector and how companies in the industry can join together to overcome them.
Representatives from many international retailers that have entered the Middle East in recent years also advised on the challenges they have faced and the successes they have achieved, including Isak Halfon, executive vice president for international expansion, Mango; Norman Jaskolka, vice-president, Aldo Group International and Francis McAuley, international director, Debenhams.
One of the main conference themes was how retailers can maintain a competitive advantage in emerging markets, and how economic, political and demographic trends will influence the retail sector. Speaking at the start of the conference, Francis McAuley, international director, Debenhams, said: "Retailers are crossing borders at a speed not matched by many other sectors. This conference will help bring this effort and speed to the attention of government policy makers and will highlight the opportunity for the creation of jobs and wealth in their countries. Then, hopefully it will encourage them to ease the barriers to entry which exist in some markets, especially quotas, tariffs, duties and foreign direct investment."
Other sessions devoted to the region included: "Gaining a foothold in this dynamic market" and "The future landscape of the ever expanding shopping malls". These sessions looked at which brands and concepts work best in the region and focused on the properties of ‘the mall of the future' helping delegates to choose the best location in the fast developing sector. The congress was organised by Emap Communications, with Visa confirmed as the Congress headline partner and Kurt Salmon Associates) as Awards headline partner. Co-sponsors include CBRE, Deloitte and Oracle.