Dubai: It may be a while before the full impact of the recent unrest on its banking and other sectors is known, but Bahrain's retail sector is getting all the support it needs and now.
Kipling, the Belgian fashion accessories brand with the monkey motif, has confirmed it will go ahead with the new store opening in June.
The earlier plans had been for a February opening, but that deadline was an obvious casualty of the recent political situation in the country.
"As we and our partner — Jashanmal — see it, the situation has calmed down considerably and that for us means we can make steady progress towards getting the new store open," said Olivier Bioul, international area sales manager for Kipling.
"We should be in a position to start on the in-store furnishings shortly and would give us time to have the best possible preparation ahead of the opening.:
Some of the other international brands which had new store plans for Bahrain are yet to comment formally about whether they intend to go ahead. But the sentiment they voice privately is that the openings will go ahead, but within a much delayed timeframe.
For Kipling, the Bahrain opening is part of a wider GCC rollout gameplan. The intention is to raise the number of outlets to 50 from the 30 now, with quite a few openings scheduled for Saudi Arabia. "For instance, we only have one store in Riyadh though there are 12 overall in Saudi Arabia," said Bioul. "Quite obviously, we could do with more in Riyadh."
Abu Dhabi store
One key opening is the one scheduled at Abu Dhabi's Marina Mall next month. That in itself would represent a key component of the brand's UAE plans, where it already operates five stores in Dubai. In Kuwait, there was a recent opening at the 360-degree mall and two more are in the pipeline.
It's only in recent years that Kipling graduated from being sold within an in-store location to having its own outlets in these markets. The reason, as far Bioul is concerned, is straightforward.
"With this region providing some of the highest growth for the brand in recent years, the need is to have maximum retail coverage in the quickest possible time," he said. "Sales doubled in the last two to three years and is on course for more. It's only during this period that we shifted.
"The brand is building up a nice following within the consumer segments it operates in — children and the young fashionable woman. Own stores give us the space to attract more customers."
Kipling — owned by VF Corp which has in its extensive portfolio the youth-oriented Wrangler and Lee jeans and Jansport backpacks — definitely has bigger aspirations from the region. The stretch target is for these markets to represent more than 10 per cent of global revenues from the current under five per cent.
Globally, Kipling has not had that difficult a recent past, according to the official. In its home market, the brand continues to put in more growth numbers, while in the UK it has not been that affected, Bioul added.