Kuwait's luxury retail segment attracts international retailers looking to gain a foothold in the GCC region

Kuwait’s wealthy and growing retail market continues to attract new international brands looking to capitalise on its strong outlook and relative lack of saturation. Introducing new brands helps mall owners stay ahead of the pack in an increasingly competitive market, while partnerships with experienced regional franchisers prove mutually beneficial. Kuwait is often central to global brands’ regional expansion strategies, partly because of its potential, and partly because Kuwaitis and expatriates alike are familiar with these brands from home or trips abroad.

Opportunities Blooming 

In January 2016 Macy’s, a New York-listed company that is one of the largest retailers in the US, announced it would be opening its first Bloomingdale’s department store in Kuwait in spring 2017. Macy’s is working in a strategic partnership with Al Tayer Group, a major UAE-based company with a diversified business portfolio, including a range of retail and distribution. The shop will be operated by Al Tayer Insignia, the part of the group dedicated to luxury retail. The Kuwait branch will be only the second international branch of Bloomingdale’s, the first having opened in Dubai in 2010. This is an indicator of how high Kuwait is on the list of potential new markets for some major international retailers. The opening of the Kuwait branch will be followed by a third in Abu Dhabi in 2018. All three Gulf branches are being opened in partnership with Al Tayer.

Covering around 8600 sq metres, the Kuwait Bloomingdale’s store will occupy three floors as an anchor to 360 Mall in Al Zahra. According to Macy’s, its offerings will include women’s fashion, footwear and beauty products. There will be no children’s wear or menswear departments, initially. The aim is to make the product range, ambience and customer service similar to that of Bloomingdale’s stores in the US, while tailoring offerings to local customers.

In a statement, Tony Spring, chairman and CEO of Bloomingdale’s, described Kuwait as “one of the world’s most sophisticated and upscale fashion markets”, while Al Tayer said that the country had weathered the drop in oil prices well and remained stable and resilient. Unlike some major retail brands, Macy’s has been relatively cautious in its international expansion, which some critics see as a slow reaction to opportunities overseas, but has also allowed the firm to avoid some of the difficulties faced by other companies in emerging markets. Under the arrangement with Al Tayer, the UAE-based company will own and operate the store, and Macy’s will receive licensing fees and royalties on sales revenues, while working closely with its partner on design and merchandising. The partnership helps the US retailer reduce risk during its early expansion abroad.

New Fashion 

360 Mall has also hosted a number of brands entering Kuwait for the first time, including a recently unveiled branch of UK fashion brand AllSaints in April 2016. The 158-sq-metre store launched with the brand’s new spring 2016 menswear and womenswear collections, as well as a new handbag line. The mall hopes it can capitalise on AllSaints’ growing regional popularity and broaden its range of fashion brands in an increasingly competitive mall market. Kuwait is the second market in the region for AllSaints, following its launch in Mall of the Emirates in Dubai in September 2015. AllSaints is operated in the Gulf by UAE-based Majid Al Futtaim.

In May 2016, 360 Mall opened Kuwait’s first branch of German luxury travel goods and accessories firm MCM, the fifth in the Middle East, and in March 2016 The Avenues mall acquired a new leading international brand, Karl Lagerfeld. The new shop focuses on ready-to-wear clothes, bags, footwear, watches and eyewear, while also offering a range of limited-edition products and showcasing the latest Karl Lagerfeld collections and news via iPads. The company’s launch in Kuwait is part of a regional expansion that has included stores in Jeddah, Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

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