Millennial Retailing in the Middle East

Author Olivia Roberts
March 11, 2019

With the ever changing landscape of the retail market in the Middle East and a lot of reports that trade has either been in decline or flat for a lot of groups or brands across the region, I thought it would be worth looking at the brands that seem to have it right, or those that have just launched into the market with a fresh approach.

Although I am a head hunter that specialises in retail, ecommerce and consumer recruitment I am also a passionate consumer of product. I love all the latest trends, I am a typical millennial, I love social media, influencers and everything that is new and innovative to the market.

I network and interview a lot of senior people in the region, all of who give me insight that the retail market is really falling on difficult times across all markets. But, is it really all doom and gloom?

Every day I open my Instagram and I see a new make-up product, or clothing item being plugged, and I am immediately engaged, and think, I want it, how can I get it? Shall I order it now? Or shall I pop to the mall at the weekend? Digital marketing is the NOW millennial approach to retailing today in my opinion.

My opinion is backed up by the Middle East being one of the most youthful regions with 18-35 year olds constituting to 40% of the total MENA population according to this report and there are 63 million Instagram users in the MENA region, which is equivalent to 10% of total global users. Usage has grown from 7% of MENA’s internet users in 2013 to 42% by 2017. This key fact shows the direction of the consumer today, how progressive and fast the market moves and what the millennials want when having the ultimate shopping experience.

With Pretty Little Thing reported by Hitwise 2017 as the fastest growing online retailer in the UK, this doesn’t surprise me what so ever. Why, people may ask? Because Umar Kamani and his excellent team of young, passionate, trend savvy millennials just get it, they buy what their customers want, they understand their customer completely and they’ve embodied fast fashion, pop culture, female empowerment, and creativity for every shape and size for everyone’s pocket. PLT deliver directly into the Middle East and this gives more competition to your standard traditional bricks and mortar stores that have been trading here for many years.

In February 2019, we saw the opening of the Pretty Little Thing to rival Missguided in Dubai Mall. Missguided, who was founded by Nitin Passi who has an extremely successful online business that delivers globally and that ventured into retail in the UK opening their first store in London, has joined forces with retail giant Azadea for the Middle East and launched into the world’s largest shopping mall taking the place of the old New Look near to Aquarium. I visited the store at the weekend for a first look at what it had to offer, and I was so impressed. The buzz and build up on social media was amazing, with the “babes of Missguided” which included some major influencers of the region such as Sonia & Fyza Ali with 928,000 followers posting the Missguided Arabia advert and then the store launch covering a lot of the key pieces they love and showing their followers around the store and what to expect. When I arrived, it was exactly as expected, Instagram heaven. It features a huge cherry blossom tree in the middle with a seating area around the middle. Everything is pink, grey, vibrant and super branded. There are lips as a seat that say “have a seat babe” all these little touches that all millennials are going to post and hashtag and give the brand more exposure and marketing. This is exactly what the Middle East needs, this fresh approach to retailing where is vibrant, it’s fun, the customer service is on point, the systems of scanning the stock are great, letting you know if they have other sizes for instances and another big point to add is the exchange and refund policy is one month.

My shopping experience at Missguided Arabia was fantastic, the product was on trend, merchandised well, a great store experience, I shared it on social media and it’s a classic example of the millennial approach to retailing. Congratulations to Danielle Kaye, who is the Middle East Brand Manager for Missguided and all her team who have launched the brand into the region.

I have mentioned mainly high street to the fast fashion end of the market, but I would also like to mention that the luxury retailers such as LVMH also really pay attention to millennial retailing too and have got it so right. UBS quote that 33% of Louis Vuitton’s profits come from consumers aged between 21 and 37. In March 2018, Louis Vuitton hired the incredible Virgil Abloh to be their Artistic Director or their menswear collection and boy did they make an amazing hire. Virgil joining LVMH was significant on so many levels, he is the first African- American Artistic Director and he has made a huge impact on the brand thus far with many items selling out and all the who’s who of Instagram and famous pop culture icons being photographed wearing his collection or carrying his bag designs.

I could go on and on, but here are just a few examples from high street fashion to luxury retail, from online to offline to omni channel. The brands that have it so right, seem to connect with the customer, give the young dynamic, instore and out of store experiences. This is how to be current, and how to stay ahead of the curve in this ever-changing market…from a millennials point of view.