Arab Luxury World 2019: Industry leaders tackle high-end retail’s regional sticking points

DUBAI: The Arab Luxury World 2019 forum kicked off in Dubai on Wednesday and, over the course of two days, will gather together leading business leaders from luxury labels across the world.

New technologies, generational change in consumer behavior and the overhauling of business models are reshaping the world of luxury. Industry experts have gathered to discuss how to move forward and ensure businesses adapt to the changing environment.

Arab News was on hand to find out more as experts gathered to answer the key questions facing the luxury retail industry in the region. Read on for a diary of our day at the Arab Luxury World 2019 forum.

Is the luxury retail industry diverse enough?

“Diversity,” “inclusion,” and “empowerment” are buzz words that have been doing the rounds in the retail industry around the world, and it’s starting to be heard more and more in the Middle East.

While governments in the region are working to ensure diversity in the luxury retail industry, companies are also doing their bit to ensure they cast a wider net when it comes to their target audience.

Panelists gathered to discuss how much of an impact this had on the region and on premium luxury businesses.

Moderated by Candice D’Cruz, vice president of luxury brand marketing in the Middle East and Africa for Marriott International, the group agreed that Dubai was a melting pot that informed brands attempt at diversifying their marketing campaigns and workforces.

However, Alexandre Schmiedt, Vacheron Constantin’s regional brand director, went on to stress that “the rest of the region is different,” adding that it was “more localized” than the likes of hyper-multi-cultural Dubai.

Schmiedt further warned that there was an extreme “lack of diversity in the workforce of the luxury industry” in the region, and used Saudi Arabia and Kuwait as prime examples of markets ripe for growth, with little national representation in the workforces of luxury brands that wished to capitalize on those markets.

The brand director stressed the need to bring on board Saudi nationals as the “industry is run by expats,” adding that even if those expats were Arab nationals, the need for Gulf representation was still strong.

Quentin Douce, business director at media consultancy Ykone, added praise for the likes of MAC Cosmetics, which he said successfully tapped into the local market by working with local influencers to create products specifically for the region.

The make-up company has been known to work with regional style stars, including Kuwaiti blogger Ahood Alenezi, to create limited-edition products.

“We need this to be inclusive,” he said.

But what are the benefits of a more diverse workforce?

A live poll conducted with the audience before the panel discussion kicked off showed that participants believed employee creativity and company reputation were the most important factors when it comes to a diversified workforce.

For her part, Chantal Khoueiry, chief culture officer of Value Retail, reminded the audience that “diversity is a mindset,” pushing back against those who believed it was simply an HR goal.

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