dubai mall shoppers
Customers throng the Dubai Mall to check out offers by retail outlets. Image Credit: Gulf News

Shopping is all about relationships. Today’s customers rarely buy from a company — they buy from a person, a person they trust, a person who is knowledgeable, and a person who delivers what’s promised.

Companies need to go back to basics to make shopping enjoyable and make sure factors such as time, treatment of the customer, efficiency, price points, the physical and tech aspects are taken care of.

As all of these elements are important in terms of fulfilling customer expectations of their in-store experience.

When situations change, you have to rethink current strategies and build on the strengths that have served you well in the past.

Tough times encourages companies to go back to its roots and do what it does best.

Companies who take proactive steps and have the flexibility to respond to market changes are less affected than those who take their time or do nothing at all.

- Ishwar Chugani, Managing Director and CEO, Giordano

A downturn highlights the tiny fractures of a business that went unnoticed during the good times.

This has given the smart retailer a chance to learn from the legacy of the past to form the wisdom of the future.

Flexibility is key

Every retailer in the region is affected by the current economic challenges.

Our strengths lie in our ability to deliver what customers need and what is relevant to them whatever the season.

I would say that a flexible approach is as important as a solid start in a downturn. You need to be able to bend with the times … and not snap against them.

Companies who take proactive steps and have the flexibility to respond to market changes are less affected than those who take their time or do nothing at all.

Challenges create new openings

There are a lot of opportunities available to us despite the soft economic situation. We were able to open new stores in good locations at lower rents.

Landlords have also become more understanding of the situation and are open to renegotiating rents which helps to reduce our operating overheads.

Contractors and suppliers are more flexible in their terms and prices during tough times and we are able to negotiate better rates and payment terms.

Think beyond 2020

We are all very optimistic not only about 2020 and beyond. The region has all the ingredients to support the retail market.

The UAE’s geographical location will always be an asset and the continuous influx of regional and international tourists will keep feeding growth.

We are fortunate to be in a very resilient market.

There will always be opportunities to expand, and for us it does not just come down to fabric and fashion but also the value we offer.

To succeed, retailers need to embrace the challenge of relationships by leveraging technology as a means to establish and maintain an omni-channel which will help connect with shoppers effectively.

Retailers also need to empower their associates to serve customers more efficiently.


Now, we can easily reach customers with a click of a button. Successful companies will engage customers through “omni-channel” retailing — a combination of both digital and physical experience.

The world of retailing is incredibly competitive with customers becoming more disillusioned with the various lines, styles and brands available.

Forget about product distinction.

Today’s retail market is short on “distinct experience”: So when you create one, you create an instant relationship with your customers.

And most importantly, a company’s culture is that ultimate competitive advantage. Competitors can steal your products or services, or even key employees.

However, they cannot steal a great company culture. A positive culture facilitates social interaction, teamwork and open communication.

This in turn ensures amazing results as the employees can positively impact both the company and its clients.

Ishwar Chugani is Managing Director of Giordano M.E.