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Sun 17 May 2020 06:29 PM

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Plastic fantastic: Dubai e-commerce brand makes clothes - and money - out of water bottles

The Giving Movement expects to be profitable by end of 2020 while donating $100,000 to charity

Plastic fantastic: Dubai e-commerce brand makes clothes - and money - out of water bottles
Dominic Nowell-Barnes founded The Giving Movement with the aim of normalising charitable donations within the fashion retail industry which focuses on profitability 

A homegrown Dubai brand has given the term plastic fantastic a whole new meaning. 

The Giving Movement founded by entrepreneur Dominic Nowell-Barnes makes fabric out of recycled plastic bottles which it then turns into fashionable activewear sold online. 

Launched just three weeks ago at the height of the Covid-19 crisis, it has already sold one third of its range and expects to be profitable by the end of the year.

"When we developed the fabric, it was insane to me that it could be done and why big brands like Nike and Adidas aren't doing that. Why? I would imagine cost. It depends on what a brand's goals are,” Barnes tells Arabian Business.

Unlike the retail giants that focus on profitability, Barnes’ The Giving Movement has its eyes set on yet another goal which is normalising charitable donations in the world of fashion retail by donating $4 per order to charities Dubai Cares and Harmony House. By the end of this year, it estimates it will donate over $100,000 based on its early projections. 

"Covid-19 is the perfect timing to be launching something like this, particularly during a pandemic when people may not necessarily be inclined to donate money to charity due to reduced incomes… I wanted to create a vehicle, a business [through which] we can sell clothing that is a necessity for everyone and we can donate from that so the consumer isn't having to go donate to charity. 

"And during times like this with Covid-19, maybe people don't have a lot of money to donate to charity, but people still need clothing. So if we can change the way charity is done, where it happens automatically as you go about your day-to-day life, we can have a great impact,” Barnes says.

Mastering the art of e-commerce 

While the pandemic has left brick and mortar stores struggling to fill their shops and sell their stock, it has impacted the UAE’s e-commerce market in its own positive way, whereby people went from shopping in person to shopping online instead, thanks for quarantine and restrictions to tackle the virus. In fact in the first two weeks of April alone, the number of stores offering e-services to consumers in the UAE rose 150%, according to figures by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA).

Barnes expects e-commerce to take an even larger market share as regional retail continues to struggle with “outdated” business models. The founder who worked for a retail giant in the UK before moving to Dubai three years ago says the city will follow in the footsteps of advanced retail markets in Europe.

"Having come from the UK where online retail is so big and moving to Dubai three years ago, and seeing online in many areas such as retail not being that strong, there is a huge opportunity here. When we say retail in the region is struggling, it's because the model is outdated…” he tells Arabian Business

"From a cost perspective of being able to sell at competitive prices, to offer good service delivered to your door next day, the UAE is going to now follow other markets like the UK where people move to an online model. Those will be the retail businesses that get stronger and stronger. As we've seen around the world, brick and mortar retail stores, whilst in some areas will always be strong, definitely more market share will move towards online,” he says.

The trick in mastering e-commerce however lies in the art of fast delivery. "Customers often impulse buy, and you have to strike while the iron's hot,” Barnes says. "If the customer sees something and they want it, they don't want to wait 3-7 days.”

Despite a healthy performance, The Giving Movement faces some delays in deliveries due to Covid-19 challenges, but Barnes claims the majority of orders arrive on time and as fast as next day.

"Generally we've got it right. In normal conditions, you've got to be offering very fast delivery service. Fast delivery is definitely a big lesson learned,” he says.

Another aspect to successful e-commerce is solid return and exchange policies, historically a “painful experience” for customers according to Barnes. 

“It's an aspect of the business that you absolutely have to get right. There are a lot of big brands - big resellers - doing things like exchange only. I don't agree with that concept because if your product is good, then give the customer the best service. 

"We shouldn't say, okay we're going to hook you in to buying a product, but if you don't like it, we're going to keep your money, or we're going to force you to exchange it for something. You need to give the power to the customer. We're not here to just take money... We want the customer to really enjoy the product and the brand, and if they don't we can exchange or return,” he says.

If a newborn local brand can prove that profitability, sustainability and charity can go hand-in-hand even during an economic, it may give the global retail giants a little something to think about besides their P&L sheets.

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