Dubai: Sephora, the French-based cosmetics and perfume retailer, plans to expand its retails operations in the Middle East to 100 stores by 2010, according to Jacques Levy, CEO of Sephora Worldwide.
"It's a booming market and it's a market where the spending power is good," Levy said.
Sephora, which offers multiple brands including its own private brand, first entered the GCC this year and currently has seven stores spread across Oman, Qatar, Dubai, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. It plans to have 35 stores in the region by the end of 2008.
The company already has a strong presence in the US, France and Poland.
"We started here with a lot of Arabic speaking people coming from France, as we have a lot of people of North African origin at our stores in France," he said. "And we sent a bunch of people here who started the business knowing the culture and the language."
The company also plans to open stores in the Dubai Mall, Dubai Marina Mall and the Mall of Abu Dhabi when those malls finally open. Levy said he would like to open more stores in the UAE but competition for space in existing malls and delays in mall construction have impacted the company's ability to expand.
While Sephora in the US is known for carrying smaller, or niche, brands, the company in Europe focuses on more traditional, well-known brands such as Chanel, but Levy said that the European stores have began to integrate the US business model.
"I looked at Sephora Europe and I thought 'how should I differentiate from our competitors'," Levy said. "We were selling all the same products ... And I looked at the model of Sephora US and saw that small brands were really moving, so I exported the small brands to Europe as a differentiator."
Levy said that while the two business models are moving closer together, there is still a difference. Sephora stores in the Middle East will more closely resemble the model used in European stores.
Besides the Middle East, Sephora is also looking to expand in China. The company entered the Chinese market three years ago and plans to open 100 stores by 2010. The company is also considering opening stores in India, but Levy said that Sephora is "just looking" at the market at this time.
The company has also been expanding its online presence, and currently hosts sephora.com, sephora.cn (China) and sephora.fr (France). Sephora.com ships worldwide, and according to Levy, is the biggest cosmetic store in the world.
Sephora's partner in the UAE is Chalhoub group.