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Thu 14 May 2009 06:14 AM

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Gulf's largest retailer sees sales rise in April, May

Chairman of Alshaya, which runs 1,700 franchise stores, upbeat amid downturn.

Alshaya, the Gulf's largest retailer by number of stores, has seen a single digit rise in sales during April and May, signalling that the worst may be over for retailers battered by the economic slowdown.

“It depends on different cities, but on average we are slightly up compared to last year,” Mohammed Alshaya, executive chairman of Kuwait-based MH Alshaya Co said on the sidelines of a store opening at The Dubai Mall.

“We have markets that are up in double digits and there are markets that are down in single digits,” he added.

Alshaya operates more than 1,700 franchise stores representing around 40 international brands in the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

“It's okay. We have great brands that are really sustaining the pressure,” Alshaya said.

“We have seen in April and May that things are getting better. We believe we have the right mix of merchandise and the right pricing, and we are still opening new stores.”

Alshaya's portfolio of brands is focused on the mid market and includes discount retailers such as H&M and Peacocks.

It also operates a number of casual dining chains and coffe chains Starbucks and Le Pain Quotidien.

Alshaya said he believes Gulf markets will pick up in the second half of the year, after Ramadan.

“I believe the fourth quarter will be positive in the US, and when the US gets positive the world will follow,” he said.

But the economic recovery would be slow and steady rather than an L-shaped curve, he cautioned.

The company told Arabian Business earlier this year that it would be opening 200 new stores across its 16 markets, despite a challenging outlook.

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