Niche stores personalise products to suit customers
Dubai Don’t go looking to drop in at Casa Mia’s new furniture store in Umm Suqeimâ¦ unless you have a formal appointment. You have been duly notified.
âBy Appointment Only’ seems to be the latest trend sweeping through the UAE’s luxury retailing space, and bringing changes to the way niche stores traditionally operate. As far as these storeowners are concerned, it’s far from being a marketing ploy to drum up interest in what they have to offer.
“We believe designer products mean different things to different people and hence found the need to segregate the brands we deal in,” said Abdul Khadar Mithani, managing director of Casa Mia.
“We don’t think this is a strategy, but we felt the segregation was inevitable because at the higher level, products are more specific and need careful attention as they are largely customised and handcrafted in Europe,” he added.
“We have a team that is working all day to deliver exactly what our esteemed clients need. As a result, we find time to deal with only a handful of clients and hence our store is âBy Appointment Only’,” Mithani said.
Not a new concept
“We don’t pick or chose our clients. However, our approach has made most of our clients realise both the magnitude and direction of our efforts. We would like to share our knowledge with as many as possible, but being able to deal with few people every day limits our ability to do so.”
An interface between a retailer and a client through prior appointment is certainly not of recent origin. Take a walk down the high street in London and one can come across any number of services being offered this way and it has been standard practice for centuries.
It may have taken its time to make a presence in the UAE, but the conditions are ripe for a warm welcome. Dubai has been recasting itself as a super-luxury shopping destination and in such an environment there are shoppers who prefer an extremely personalised experience at the shops of their choice.
Rajesh Popley, managing director of Al Anwaar Golden Jewellers, agrees that the local environment has a lot to do with it.
“The Middle East is one of the niche markets for personalised services due to several factors, predominantly culture,” he said. “How we service our exclusive clients is an important aspect of the business.”
His business has been there since the 1980s, but it is now making a determined bid to move up the premium retailer ladder.
It was to this end that that the bespoke âRP’ line of jewellery was introduced. The firm’s jewellery designers include Emmanuel Gueit of Geneva and Lina Schlageter — names to be reckoned with in the industry.
The collections blend in 17th century Spanish fluted emerald beads as well as naturally coloured pink and blue solitaire diamonds. The prices start at a steep Dh25,000.
Now, when such jewellery is there, it makes sense to create a retailing environment that would be in sync. At its Gold Souq branch, the retailer has created a private area exclusively for clients of the RP collection.
If requested, Al Anwaar will even provide a private viewing at the client’s residence. Additional elements include extensive customisation on the designs according to client specs and even a valet service to the flagship Gold Souq branch.
“In providing these services, we are able to give clients the dedicated attention they require when purchasing such items where each piece is designed as an heirloom, with investment in mind,” Popley said.
Does this trend have the legs to become more widely accepted in the local luxury marketplace? Market-watchers are still debating the merits.
“There are only a few luxury categories that can allow such a high degree of personalisation for the retailer,” an industry analyst said.
“If the retailer is only serving an exclusive niche, it should work well. However, if the retailer tries to straddle different consumer categories, concentrating on the exclusive could end up putting off the other clientele. It can then turn into a high-risk strategy.”
all under one roof
At the new super-premium store, the promoters of Casa Mia are looking for the average transaction to be in the range of Dh800,000 and more against the Dh200,000 to Dh400,000 in the first one.
“We have plans to expand our category and expand into lighting products and accessories,” said Kader Mithani, managing director. “We are also planning to come out with our own building soon in the UAE which will have everything under one roof.”
Currently, sales to individual clients represent a major portion of the company’s revenues. But it has been building up a portfolio of commercial projects as well, including the Lamborghini and Ferrari showrooms in the UAE, the Al Habtoor headquarters and the Armani Hotel. Based on the company’s business model, the turnaround time for profits to be sighted is between 3-5 years in “ideal market conditions”.
“Our focus will be to expand and diversify within the building materials industry; along with this, we are also expanding our footprints across markets and we have now presences in London, Qatar and India apart from the base in the UAE,” said Mithani.
The promoters are also keen on a breakthrough in the more affordable categories.