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Sat 23 May 2015 01:40 AM

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Why we should support more locally-grown brands

It's time to show the UAE doesn’t just attract the world’s best brands, it also produces them, says Ed Attwood

Why we should support more locally-grown brands

About five years ago, a friend of mine was looking for space in one of Dubai’s biggest malls. He called up, saying he couldn’t get any.

“They told me I wasn’t a big enough brand. I needed to tie up with somebody in America.”

There is of course no shortage of great foreign brands that have made Dubai one of the world’s premier shopping destinations. That’s why the Dubai Mall saw nearly 80 million visitors last year, up nearly 7 percent on the year before. These are better figures than you would find in New York’s Time Square, Washington, DC’s Union Station or even Paris’ Eiffel Tower.

What’s more interesting is when you further break down the Dubai Mall numbers. Just 60 percent were from the UAE and Middle East, the rest from outside.

Now I just don’t accept that around 32 million of these visitors came only to look at the latest collections in Zara and Tommy Hilfiger, which they can find in every big global city, for pretty much the same price?

Surely they are equally interested in what the UAE itself has to over? And surely this means there is a huge opportunity for our local brands to make more of an impact here? This week we feature one such success story, Marina Home Interiors. The first store was launched back in 1997, and since then it has seen turnover rise by 20 percent year-on-year for almost two decades.

The company now has stores in Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia, is opening in Qatar and Kuwait in the near future and is forecasting enormous growth in India and Africa.

“In terms of future growth there are a lot of new developments shaping up in various countries around the Middle East and North Africa. We’re well positioned in some of those new developments but we’re also seeking our entry aggressively into North Africa and some central African countries,” co-founder Khurshid Vakil tells us. An entry into Morocco, Tunisia and Nigeria is now on the cards.

This company is a great example of a UAE-grown brand that is starting to take the world by storm. Local partners in foreign countries are desperate to tie up with them, not the other way around.

Thomas Lundgren’s THE One furniture stores, which launched in the region in 1996, is another good example, with hugely successful branches across the Gulf.

Look at the luxury Japanese restaurant Okku. Most people assume it was started in Europe or Asia. Nope, the company started right here in Dubai and I have no doubt, eventually to make its mark globally.

Our recent list of the 100 Most Influential Arabs under the age of 40 contained endless success stories of new ideas and new businesses started by young Arabs that are on the cusp of a global impact. And then of course, the UAE has global superstars — no two better examples than Emirates and Etihad, both of which are as well known in Dallas as Dubai.

Given the huge growth in tourism expected in the UAE in the coming years, there will be no shortage of customers. But it is equally important that local ideas and local brands take up the mantle. It is time to show that the UAE doesn’t just attract the world’s best brands, it also produces them.

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jason 5 years ago

Get the directors of the malls to respond to that!!!!!!!

Malls here are boring .....same stores time and time again!

Amir 5 years ago

I Agree,

MALLS ARE THE MOST BORING PLACES THESE DAYS with all same brands, advertisements everywhere and just too much too walk around. I wonder if people still go to malls for shopping ??!!!!