"BFL intends on filling the gap in the affordable goods market, consumers are keen to spend on something that has value for their money."
The Brands for Less Group has become a popular household name across MENA due to their innovative outlook on how to cater to customers. Below, Reefaya Noortaj explores how the BFL group is thriving regardless of the pandemic and is shaping the retail market in the Middle East when it comes to implementing a robust omni-channel strategy.
The United Arab Emirates is known to be one of the biggest retail markets around the globe, especially in Dubai as the world views it. The UAE retail market was valued at $55 billion in 2019 and is expected to rise to $75 billion by 2025 due to various dynamics such as rising per capita income, booming tourism industry (despite the pandemic) and increasing numbers of city development projects. With the introduction of the off-price retail market in the MENA region, companies such as Brand’s For Less (BFL) took over this market by branching out into fashion and homeware. Based in the UAE, BFL serves over three markets across the MENA region and Europe. Yasser Beydoun is the Managing Partner of BFL group, which he established in 1996 with Toufic Kreidieh, the company’s CEO.
Beydoun has been driving the company’s success in gaining retail recognition in numerous countries in the Middle East and Europe. He and Kreidieh conceptualized the original brands of the company such as Toys For Less and Homes For Less, as well as bringing international franchises like Korea’s MUMUSO and Germany’s popular chain Tchibo. BFL intends on filling the gap in the affordable goods market, pushing the endless potentials BFL can bring when they moved their headquarters to Dubai in 2000. “Consumers are keen to spend on something that has value for their money and what we saw at that time was the need to provide them with options that serve them in terms of brand choices as well as affordability. Out-of-the-box thinking was necessary, and we worked on understanding the market better, the trends and how we can take retail to another level. The UAE is a unique market with various customer segments, and we considered their taste and preference for brands. This is how the ‘treasure hunt’ concept was created, and since then we are proud of how this business strategy has taken our business in many places and more customers are trusting our brand,” explains Beydoun.
It is no secret that discovering and retaining are the biggest success factors for a company or brand to flourish and stay relevant. It takes certain skills, ideas, and of course, willpower for a company to hold on to those factors and try to be as innovative as possible in a competitive market in the 21st century. Beydoun expresses that it is important to identify and act on consumer trends as they would lead a company to appeal to its target customers. Subsequently, it also helps retailers to understand and analyze the personalities and the types of customers that walk into their store, including their online presence and purchase history. “Introducing innovative shopping concepts where the customer is enticed to discover exclusive items or rare finds at a great price adds excitement to their shopping experience, otherwise known as the ‘treasure hunt’ concept; which has been one of our major attractions. Activities during special occasions and festivities are also important in terms of maintaining connections to your customers. Payment schemes such as ‘buy now, pay later’ are also the latest trends in the retail sector and find this concept useful to many customers. Most importantly, ensuring an excellent customer vice would keep your brand on top of the list of your customers. One bad or good review would trigger word-of-mouth marketing which is crucial to your success. One must never underestimate this aspect of the business” says Beydoun.
When it comes to omnichannel strategy, the BFL Group has mastered the art of a flawless smooth shopping experience intertwined within the physical and online platforms. “Omnichannel is already an existing trend in the MENA especially in advanced countries such as the UAE where devices are widely used in many transactions. The key to its success and wider adoption across the region is the availability of technology infrastructure which would enable customers to enjoy a completely seamless transaction wherever they are and whenever they wish to. The growth of e-commerce in the region will also determine the wider adoption of omnichannel retail. Even before the pandemic, consumers have been exploring online shopping vigorously and it has catapulted even higher during the pandemic. By 2025, market analysts predict that e-commerce in the region will be valued at USD 25 billion. With these trends, omnichannel will become an essential aspect of the overall buying experience” tells Beydoun.
Despite the pandemic affecting every part of life, the BFL Group powered through, following a 19% growth in sales in the first six months in 2021, which is expected to record an increase of up to 8% compared to last year. As expected by every company globally, online sales have equally surged online demand. “Certainly, BFL Group has achieved new heights during the pandemic, as we were able to make the business grow and even explored the new market and appreciated e-commerce even more. It has become a core pillar in our growth strategy. Online demand has naturally increased as more customers are shopping online these days and our investments in marketing and social media helped a lot in reaching new customers and expanding our client base” shares Beydoun. The BFL Group has witnessed a surge in the number of visitors within shops, especially during the weekends during the third quarter of this year. These factors are expected to enable the UAE’s retail sector to reach USD 58billion in sales for 2021, which is a 13% gain compared to the previous year, according to recent estimates from the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry. To top off its recent success, the company has received the ‘Heroes of the Pandemic’ award due to the noteworthy accomplishments of its e-commerce platform amidst the lockdown and consistent innovation.
Brands must find alternative routes to staying successful during a global crisis or for any challenging times. “Creativity is key to emerge successful in any challenge. During the pandemic, BFL Group focused on the opportunities and explored ways to remain relevant, formulating innovative strategies that reflect our key strengths as a business. We also remain focused on our goal – and that is to always provide the best customer service to our clients — regardless of the business climate or economic uncertainties. This has led us to boost our presence in the e-commerce market. Although the competition is tough in this market, we remain stable and keep our business values and objectives in front of us” says Beydoun.
The constant rise of the UAE economy is highly notable across the global economy; the UAE economy will grow 2.1% this year and 4.2% in 2022; stated recently by the Central Bank of the UAE. The BFL Group has stated that they are committed to contributing to the nation’s economy and the board’s plan for it is thorough and promising. “BFL Group is currently focusing its expansion plans towards many regions. The brands already existing flagship stores such as Toys For Less, Brands For Less, Homes For Less, Muy Mucho, Mumuso, gives extensive opportunities in the UAE. We all know that the demand for goods is increasing in the country and we are trying to meet such needs by opening more stores and contributing to the country’s economy. BFL Group’s expansion plans in the UAE for the upcoming year also aims to create more job opportunities which will, in turn, contribute towards Gross Domestic Product (GDP), consumer spending and growth of the economy. Market trends are another aspect that we are always taking interest in,” says Beydoun.
Aside from being a thriving entrepreneur and highly contributing to the region’s economy, a strong sense of individuality ultimately slings them to the highest levels of success in a competitive world. “The life and journey of an entrepreneur is an exciting one. There are countless stories of challenges and successes, and for me, running a business has made me stronger and sharper in terms of making quick decisions. I have seen myself develop the courage to take bigger risks, with a better understanding of my capabilities. It is always important to understand your purpose and vision in terms of how you are contributing to improving the quality of life of people. Creating and growing a business entails facing obstacles, pulls, pushes, and other driving forces that you will encounter along the way. One of the key things that an entrepreneur should remember is that to remain flexible as a company, maintaining a low cash burn rate is important. Therefore, optimizing the potentials of your team members and using resources efficiently are the qualities that an entrepreneur must develop to maintain business continuity. Adopting the ability to take calculated risks is also valuable for an entrepreneur when it comes to expanding the business. In retail, innovation and new technologies offer new opportunities, however, one must always take risk in terms of investment and always consider experimenting within their own risk and safety net” concludes Beydoun.
The Brand’s For Less Group offers something new to the UAE retail market, especially following the ‘treasure hunt’ business structure, which is still uncommon amongst most retailers; keeping the company innovative enough to retain its targeted audience in the long run. The brand is gradually becoming a competition amongst mainstream retailers and aims to become one of the major contributors to the UAE economy.
About The Editor
Born in Bangladesh and raised in the Middle East, UAE and Bahrain, Reefaya is a postgraduate from The London School of Economics in U.K. and an undergraduate from Sussex University. Reefaya has an immense love for sustainable fashion, social development and art.