Market Focus Feat. Founder, The Lookout Oman, Layal Afeiche

Oman's evolving fashion landscape.

According to Euromonitor International, “Oman’s retail industry was worth $10.3 billion in 2018 and is forecast to steadily rise to $11.3 billion by 2023.” Further, regarding its online market growth, “In 2017, Oman’s online market accounted for 12 percent of its retail industry. Reports suggest that e-commerce sales in the GCC will have an estimated value of USD 41.5 billion by 2021,” states BusinessLive ME.

Below, we learn more about how a beloved retail shop in Muscat is adapting to the Pandemic.

About The Lookout

The Lookout is a multi brand boutique bringing you contemporary and upcoming brands and designers from around the world for both men and women all under one roof, at the Oman Avenues Mall in Muscat, and now online just here to be delivered right to your doorstep!

The Lookout first started in late 2013 with Layal Afeiche, who is the founder of the multi brand boutique and also a fashion designer.

Her passion for fashion and for changing and improving the fashion scene in her second hometown Muscat, Oman pushed her to move back.

It all started with pop ups right from her home basement as the mall was still under construction, and from there The Lookout built its trusty and loved customer base.

As one-of-its-kind and one of very few in the Sultanate, The Lookout has become recognized for having exclusive and fashionable pieces that appeal to all.

With these projections in mind, there is hope for a promising market in Oman when it comes to luxury brand presence. Apparel Group brands has teamed up with Majid Al Futtaim to be ‘forever future ready’ ahead of competition by dominating the luxury scene through opening new brands at the 150k square foot Mall of Oman, opening in 2021. The Chairman of The Apparel Group, Nilesh Ved, stated in Arabian Business, “Our next strategic venture is with Mall of Oman, wherein we launch some of our prestigious global brands, which is certain to create the much needed high street shopping ambience for the local consumers.”

Pre COVID-19, one could attribute the promising statistics to the projected rise in population and trajectory in tourism, however now with limited travel options, retailers based in the country must rely on virtual commerce to drive their transactions.

Muscat based retailer, The Lookout, is a multi-brand boutique bringing you contemporary and upcoming brands from all around the globe for both men and women. The Lookout is found at the Oman Avenues Mall in Muscat, recently launched online as well. Read the interview with the owner and Managing Director, Layal Afeiche for her first-hand thoughts on what customers are currently asking for when shopping.

Photo by Marcus Loke on Unsplash

1.  Briefly tell us about The Lookout Oman (TLO) and how you came about curating your specific collection in store and online.

After graduating, it was not my intention of moving back to Oman; but having grown up there I knew that there were limited options for anything “fashion.” I saw potential for me to move and establish a boutique that houses multi brands, catering to a niche market. That’s how The Lookout was born. I then started traveling abroad to trade shows in search of trendy brands, I knew they would fit nicely with the style and collections in store. After many years and hurdles, we are finally branching out online as there has been an increase in need from locals for virtual shopping.

2. Why call it The Lookout?

It just came to me one night as I was brainstorming with friends. We came up with the name thinking that I was and will always be on “The Lookout” for new trends, new brands, new inspiration. The logo of the owl followed because an owl never sleeps, it is always perched up high on its branch on the lookout for prey.

3. Describe the type of person shops at TLO?

I target an audience of women from 20-65 years of age. So I see girls who love to dress up and stand out. Be quirky and different. Women with style, elegance and appreciate the quality of the item they are buying.

4. What kinds of clothing do you think shoppers are looking for in a world during / post COVID-19? How does TLO cater to these new tastes and needs?

To be honest, I see it going in two opposite ways. First, I assume that there will be a prevalent need to go back to shopping as soon as shops are open again. That need for retail therapy, the need to buy outfits for all of those missed parties, weddings, dinners, galas, etc. They’re stocking up as more recent collections are on discount in order to drive sales. On the other side, I also see it going in the opposite direction whereby customers will opt for street style and relaxed clothing, in order to feel good overall.

There will always be mainly two different types of clientele who are going to be shopping for their own reasons, despite COVID.

Photo by Katerina Kerdi on Unsplash

5. What do you think are the benefits of operating a multi-branded store over a mono-store? What are the challenges?

The benefits of being multi branded are offering diverse styles, vibes and fabrics from different brands. When on my buying trips, I try not to stick to one specific collection or vibe, such as choosing only boho, refined or loose-fit, as the goal is to cater to a wider clientele.

The disadvantages of a multi brand store is having a brand you love performing more poorly when compared to others due to its set price point or style; further me having to discontinue it the next season because it wasn’t embraced by customers. Moreover, with several brands being merchandised, there is a lack of space for each brand to shine hence they don’t have as much brand presence as they would in a mono-store.

6.  Have you noticed a spike in your e-shopping since the COVID-19 outbreak?

I’ve taken the time pre and during COVID-19 to establish my online presence, as I assumed that people would rely on contactless transacting during quarantine. I have set up a website with a PayPal payment option and set up targeted ads that speak to my target audiences around the region. Further, I am now starting to upload new content; that one will be available to the GCC with all types of credit and debit payments.

7. What’s distinct about the Oman fashion scene compared with the rest of the GCC’s?

When it comes to an international scale, Oman is considered a fairly new country in GCC; there are ample opportunities for growth to be done in this area. Furthermore, when it comes to Omani local dress, the national dress is beautiful with diverse colors and embroideries.

8. What’s next in TLO’s future?

The goal is to focus on supporting this boutique before I can expand stores. Further, I will now need to prioritize amplifying the website to gain international reach and sales. Finally, I hope to expand TLO’s category into a wider concept store that offers F&B.

For now, let’s see how the world will unfold in 2020.

"There are ample opportunities for growth to be done in this area."