Retail Report

Azadea Group’s deputy chief says the Middle East’s retail scene is changing fast, with consumers becoming ever more sophisticated and demanding.

Beirut-based Azadea Group owns the regional franchise rights for a host of big name retail and restaurant brands, such as Zara, Massimo Dutti, Mango, and Paul. Here in Jordan, Azadea oversees 45 locations and recently inaugurated an $8 million facility that will handle the back-office operations for the group’s 12,000 employees.

Marwan A. Moukarzel, deputy chief executive officer of Azadea, spoke to Venture about how his team is adapting to new consumer habits and trends that are helping shape the region’s fast-growing retail sector.

What makes Jordan an attractive market for Azadea, and what are the main challenges you face here?

Jordan is an important market for Azadea. Last year, we expanded our footprint from 30 to 45 stores. Jordan is also the host country for the first ever Azadea Shared Service Center. With quality infrastructure, stable business and political environment, and a well-educated talent pool, Jordan was the most attractive base for centralizing primary business functions for the group. With higher operational costs, retailers have learned to efficiently manage their resources and focus on maximizing efficiencies. Jordan has potential, and we believe in a positive long-term outlook for the country. We remain committed to the Kingdom and the growing opportunities the country presents.

What do customers in the region look for and how are their spending habits changing?

The retail industry is fascinating, and consumers nowadays are core leaders of retail. With exponential progress of e-commerce, diverse influential social media platforms and game-changing technologies, supply chains and customer touch-points have revolutionized the way retailers adapt to consumer behavior. Consumers are increasingly seeking experiences that are immersive, and that add immediate value and satisfaction to their personal interests. Millennials particularly look to treat themselves in the most experiential ways. It’s all about relevance and differentiation. It’s about learning to understand what your customer really wants, and knowing how to customize the engagement. Focusing on what truly adds value at every stage of the customer journey is key to a winning customer-centric approach.

Over the past 40 years, we have been committed to providing customers and people with entertaining and exciting lifestyle experiences. By being consistent in our core mission, we are proud of the unique journey we have created, always putting the customer at the forefront of everything we do. This also means being responsive and innovative in an ever-changing retail market.

As lifestyle retail continues to grow across the wider Middle East, and with an increasing demand for differentiated experiences, our markets will witness major real estate offerings, which will further widen the horizons and retail possibilities in the region.

While shopping malls remain a key destination in our region, omni-channel retail is a reality and will certainly keep evolving. It is here to ensure that it provides a 360-degree customer experience, creating new opportunities for retailers to enhance their offerings and services.

Any expansion plans for the Jordanian market and the region?

We continue to explore opportunities beyond our existing footprint and offerings in Jordan as our belief in the country remains positive. Always adapting to the consumer demand, we plan to introduce new winning concepts to the market such as KIKO Milano, the Italian beauty and cosmetics brand, and Lefties, the newest addition to giant Inditex Group.