Could you shed some light on the success journey of the Brands For Less (BFL) Group so far? What were some of the initial challenges you faced as an entrepreneur?
Our entire journey has been incredibly interesting and challenging at the same time. We have experienced rapid growth, as well as excitement with each new store opening, and today, we serve over eight countries with more than 80 branches across the regions and 3,000 brands of products. We believe that our hard work and quick response to challenges have aided us in our success and look forward to continuing to serve the industry with our concepts and exclusive prices based on customers’ needs and expectations.
It was not an easy start for us and despite little financial assistance from banks and working in an underground parking lot of a residential building, we used any profit we made to expand the company. We had to work closely with companies to acquire products at first and coordinated continuously with brands to prove our commitment. Our efforts were rewarded when companies realised our passion and began to supply us with more containers. Although there have been challenges from the beginning, overcoming them depends on smart decisions. The emerging digitised retail sector presented challenges, but we overcame them by embracing modern technology.
Moreover, the pandemic prompted us to leverage our e-commerce platform, which allowed us to continue serving our customers even during the lockdown. Other emerging social trends posed many challenges as well, but we managed to overcome them through an omnichannel strategy. New trends, such as direct-to-consumer models, have recently emerged, but we continue to maintain our competitive nature and overcome this by focusing on our primary goal, which is customer satisfaction.
Give us an overview of the current scale, growth and expansion of BFL in 2022 and beyond? How will Qatar and KSA be an ideal location for BFL’s business growth?
Our growth is a result of our hard work over the years and can be attributed to our teamwork and innovation with store-related concepts that are tailored to our customers’ needs. Our dedication to customers and hard work have been key drivers of success and business growth which has further encouraged us to expand our flagship outlets to various other regions. Today the group has successfully expanded its portfolio to several GCC countries such as Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, along with Saudi Arabia, and is also preparing to enter the Bahrain market soon.
The Qatar and Saudi Arabia markets have always provided an ideal environment for business development and growth. The Qatar market, which aligns with the group’s expansion portfolio and vision for 2022, emerges as an ideal location for business growth, because of the country’s high GDP per capita despite its small population. The International Monetary Fund predicted a recovery of 2.4 per cent in annual growth for Qatar’s economy by the end of the year, with outputs returning to pre-crisis levels by early 2022. It was also noted that the post-pandemic recovery will further drive growth, bringing the overall growth to 3.6 per cent in 2022.
The country also relies on international partners to achieve strategic goals, driving business opportunities for several countries, and has facilitated the expansion of various businesses, which helped us expand to Qatar with two new stores. Similarly, as e-commerce continues to grow worldwide, Saudi Arabia has witnessed recent shifts in consumer behaviour that have prompted various industries to accelerate digitalisation in the retail industry. Strong purchasing power and growing digital economy awareness in the country have driven the future of retail into the online space from physical stores.
The pandemic has spurred retail businesses to go online. Will e-commerce take over the brick-and-mortar model?
Our shift to e-commerce was critical, particularly in the face of rapidly changing market trends, consumer behaviour, rising popularity of influencer marketing, and the digital disruption over traditional shopping habits. Retailers use tech-enabled solutions to provide customers with a hassle-free shopping experience, due to which, the brand also implemented augmented reality to offer customers an enhanced virtual shopping experience. In brief, we have invested all of our resources into developing a very powerful e-commerce platform, in order to achieve our goal of becoming the pioneers of the online value sector, and not just the bricks-and-mortar model.
New direct-to-consumer companies are emerging, offering prices that are much cheaper. What would you advise retail and e-commerce companies for them to withstand such strong competition?
Retail is being disrupted by direct-to-consumer e-commerce companies, as they create, market, sell, and ship its own goods. This is changing the way people shop and the way to overcome this competitive challenge involves understanding the consumer, educating them about your offerings, and providing them with services that best suit them. It is critical to provide customers services that meet their requirements, which will automatically drive consumers to avail your products as they already are aware of the benefits.
Additionally, it is necessary to connect with your brand, which can be accomplished through exceptional customer service, understanding their changing needs, or intriguing them with new concepts. Consumers have the tendency to look for something different and unique, and we ensure customers the chance to find that one-of-a-kind item they are looking for, as we have collections from over 3,000 brands, each of which is distinct from the others, promising an exciting shopping experience.
What are the skills to start a successful retail business?
To own a retail business, you must be a leader, as your employees will be following your lead. It is important to take initiative and have clear direction on how your brand is translated to customers, as the retail industry is very hands-on. When starting a retail business, it’s critical to understand your target market, potential customers’ expectations, industry trends, and broader economic trends. This information helps the seller determine whether to sell, what to sell, where to sell, and how much to sell. Setting up a business plan is also critical in establishing your retail business effectively, which covers obtaining financing on favourable terms, setting goals and targets against which you can track your progress, and more.
In addition to this, it is important to have an eye for detail, especially when it comes to determining an ideal location for your business and finding the right suppliers. Similarly, smart promotion is also pivotal in setting up a retail venture, because every action reflects on your business, be it the name you choose, the brand you create, the location of your store, the look and feel of your merchandising, and the way you interact with customers.
Lastly, it’s crucial to know that marketing, promoting, and advertising is key to reaching your target audience, and will allow your business to grow exponentially