It will not be an exaggeration to say value fashion brand Splash is a UAE success story. From a single store in Sharjah that opened in 1993 to 250 now spread across the GCC, Middle East and India, the brand is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. And it’s bringing back its annual fashion show on November 16 for a one-off event to mark the occasion.
Inextricably linked to Splash’s history is CEO Raza Beig, who’s worked his way up from store manager and now takes care of a number of portfolios within the Landmark Group conglomerate. Ahead of the show, Beig speaks to Gulf News tabloid! about the journey so far, the lessons he’s learnt and why success is all about people.
Congratulations on the landmark year. How does it feel to see the brand through its 25 years?
“One can only imagine how humbling it must be for a journey of mine personally from a store manager to a CEO. I am not only very humbled but grateful to the consumers, to the leadership of this region, to the stakeholders, to the media and our partners. We are where we are today, thanks to all the blessings.”
Your fashion shows were major social events in the UAE. Why did you stop?
“We have been doing the Splash fashion show for many years and have been attracting the same customers and media year on year. We felt it would be good to take a short break and instead look at taking it to other markets and do the shows a little differently. We have decided to reinvent our show and build this platform keeping in mind our customers. This year the fashion show is back again and it celebrates our 25 year journey and it will be bigger and grander than ever before.”
Take us back in time to when it all began.
“The first Splash store opened on March 21, 1993, in Sharjah on Al Wahda Street. There were three retailers: Fashion Way which was a very stunning store, Sana which was a discounted module, and then our store based on a value-fashion model. We had 30 branded shop-in-shops with merchandise and brands from South East Asia, and our first store was an instant hit with the customer as it was not very fashion savvy but more essential-based and totally value. The moment we opened the store to the consumer, I realised what I wanted to do, and it was fashion, fashion, fashion.”
What are some of the brand’s biggest landmarks and achievements?
“The last 25 years have been of constant change as the region has evolved with its retail landscape and as retailers we have grown from trading to a buying mindset. We have continuously upgraded and evolved our stores, our processes, our product and our people. When we started, we presumed Splash could be no more than a maximum of 10 stores in the GCC and today when we look at our 250-plus stores presence, I feel a sense of pride. I can also safely presume that today Splash is a household name and we have made a great impression and we are part of the fashion customers’ journey. Our people strategy is also our biggest strength and achievement as we were awarded in the Top 5 places to work across all industries. People like me or ordinary people have done some extraordinary work at Splash and with multiple examples like this in Splash, we hold important positions in the business and that is in itself an achievement.”
What were some of the biggest challenges for Splash in the past 25 years?
“Even though we are a trend-focused business, we have always been considered a local value retailer and do not get the same respect as some other global brands. While these global retailers do not necessarily understand the values and sensibilities that they have of the region, they have an upper hand because of their international exposure. This market is easy, and fluid and people can make investments easily so naturally competition also comes in quicker than expected and takes a part of the market share. We have fortunately always looked at competition as a compliment rather than a threat and we do believe that every time they come in they meet the pie a little bigger. But now over 25 years we see that it’s over exposed and of late everything is so promotion driven that it takes away the joy of fashion.”
Were there risks you took with Splash that you wouldn’t do again?
“To build a successful business it is important to take risks. However, it is important to thoroughly analyse before taking certain decisions. I do not believe in repeating the same strategy and I do not have any regrets for the decisions that were taken in the past. All these 25 years, we have always edged ourselves and taken calculative risks on all fronts as risk taking is part and parcel of creating successful businesses.”
You’ve faced some backlash about your association with Bollywood star Salman Khan. Where do you stand on celebrity endorsements now?
“People have opinions and have the right to say what they want. However, I do not believe that we faced any kind of backlash with our association with Salman. Back then, the idea was to get a brand ambassador who would appeal to the mass especially the Asian and Arab community and Salman Khan worked extremely well for us. Today we are talking to a young audience and we need to speak the language that they can connect with.”
Give us a little bit of an insight into the creative process at Splash?
“At Splash, we have a young and passionate team that continuously works at being abreast with the various trends in the industry. We have around 75+ employees who are part of the design and buying teams. I am personally very involved with the overall business, be it a brand campaign or a product design and ensure to keep motivating and encouraging the team to give their best all the time.”
What are your future plans for Splash?
“Looking at the brick and mortar principal, Splash has a strong presence across all key locations. In today’s day and age, e-commerce has become another important platform for brands to have its presence on. However, I feel that we have not done our best in exploring this platform. Our main focus this year is to push our e-commerce not just in this region but also to build a global road map for expansion.”
The Splash fashion show at the Atlantis, The Palm, is via invites only.