Sharaf Group kept its eyes on the ball with Forever 21, adding more stores and not letting changes at the brand's parent level district. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: UAE’s Sharaf Group will not be fazed by bankruptcy, new ownership or any such distraction happening at one of the global brands it represents. Not when the brand in question is Forever 21, the value-for-money fashion and accessories label.

In fact, the Dubai-headquartered Sharaf Group is on a mission to super-size its Forever 21 presence, not least with the opening of a 12,000 square feet one at the Ibn Battuta Mall. It was in 2019 that Forever 21 – one of the most happening names with a younger shopper base – slipped into bankruptcy proceeding and then later found itself sold to a consortium featuring Authentic Brands Group, Simon Property Group and Brookfield Property Partner.

So, wasn’t the bankruptcy and subsequent sale of the US fashion label ever a factor in Sharaf’s own expansion plans? “No, we had already opened 7-8 stores in 18 months,” said Yasser Sharaf, Vice-President for Retail, Hospitality, Industry and Financial Services at Sharaf Group. “Our vision is to create a seamless omni-channel experience and deliver an exceptional shopping experience.

“We strongly believe that the brand – Forever 21 - offers a variety of on-trend merchandise at very affordable pricing. (And) we constantly work on our consumers’ requirements and getting to market and introducing regional products to suit their style/fashion quotient.”

Whatever be the issues/changes global brands face in their home markets, in the Gulf, they still hold a cache with shoppers – and just as important with their brand partners. Recently, the famed UK brand Debenhams doubled down on its association with Alshaya of Kuwait even after the transition to a new ownership.

Regional rights

Sharaf Group operates 22 Forever 21 stores in the Middle East and Southeast Asia and “endeavouring to open at least 3-4 more doors before the end of 2022”.

“We currently manage businesses across the Middle East and Southeast Asia and are committed to nurture the markets with Forever 21 footprint expansion,” said Sharaf. “We are not looking to acquire any additional franchises at this stage.”

A revised partnership
Forever 21 was acquired by Authentic Brands Group, a global brand development, marketing and entertainment company, in 2020. In October last, ABG had signed a long-term partnership with Sharaf Group for Forever 21.

Through this, Sharaf Group, which has been Forever 21’s core operating partner in the region for 10 years, expanded its licensing rights from apparel and accessories to additional categories such as health and beauty, fragrance and home, and new territories in Southeast Asia.

The revised deal also extends to ecommerce possibilities.