UAE. A.T. Kearney’s 2012 index of top ranked emerging markets for global retail expansion confirms continued strength of the retail sector in the GCC, now with another top 10 entry.
In the 12th Global Retail Development Index (GRDI), four GCC countries rank in the top 20¾U.A.E. (#7), new entrant Oman (#8), Kuwait (#12), and Saudi Arabia (#14). Globally Brazil retains the #1 position for the second year in a row and as Chile (#2) and China (#3) climb, India (#5) drops down one place, according to A.T. Kearney, a global management consultancy.
“We are seeing GCC retailers grow exponentially. Some have reached their 100th store opening milestone in a third of the time compared to developed markets and some are experiencing growth rates 3-4 times faster than their mature peers¾we call it hyper-speed evolution,” said Dr. Martin Fabel, Partner and head of Consumer Industry and Retail Practice, A. T. Kearney Middle East.
The UAE’s upward move on the index, from #8 to #7, reflects strong consumer confidence and increasing retail sales of over 5 percent. Tourism has always been an important retail growth factor for the UAE and while the Arab Spring and global economic slowdown is taking its toll on some markets, the country has enjoyed strong visitor number levels, along with its reputation as a safe and welcoming nation, accepted by both tourists and investors alike.
Dubai Mall is the world’s most-visited shopping and leisure destination. With over 54 million visitors (up 15 percent from 2010) and a 35 percent increase in average sales, the one-million square foot expansion plan reflects growing interest by international retailers. Similarly, Mall of the Emirates, the country’s second largest Mall, had its best performance in 2011 since its founding in 1992.
While the big-format is still dominant, convenience formats are becoming more popular in the UAE. Nevertheless, the report says that while convenience formats present growth paths for retailers looking to expand their local footprint, large hypermarkets continue to announce plans for neighborhood store expansion across the Gulf region.
“Varying performance across markets (developed and developing) necessitates a portfolio approach for global and developing brands and this includes identifying niche opportunities in smaller markets. Although the world's largest developing markets still tempt most retailers, many smaller, untapped markets are getting a second look—not only are the large retailers expanding, but smaller, specialised retailers too,” added Emanuele Savona, principal A.T. Kearney.
Oman, makes it first time appearance in the GRDI ranking in the top ten. Highlighted in the global study as a “small gem”, Oman represents an attractive destination for global retailers, particularly for specialty and luxury players. Although small in terms of total retail market size its strong fundamentals and concentrated wealth represent appeal to retailers seeking first mover advantage in fast-growing markets. The high-level entry ranking reflects its growing mass grocery, electronic and luxury goods segments.
Kuwait’s concentrated urbanization–98 percent of citizens living in cities–demonstrates a strong loyal luxury fashion consumer set. The country’s projected retail sales increase of $4 billion from 2011 to 2015 is indicative of the growing interest by new international brands.
The Avenues Mall is Kuwait’s largest shopping centre featuring the largest number of international brands in the country with two new malls in the pipeline including; 360 Kuwait with over 800,000 square feet of retail space, and Mall of Kuwait with over 1.6 million square feet. Hypermarket activity is also increasing, with a 7.5 percent increase in sales in the past year, backed by increasing youth spend on consumer electronics.
Saudi Arabia’s strong fundamentals of rising GDP, population growth and increased government spending solidifies its position in the top 20 maintaining its standing as among the largest and most attractive markets in the Middle East. Several international brands have announced expansion plans to capture the anticipated increase in Saudi consumer spend in parallel with the government stimulus plan to inject about US$110 billion into the economy over the next five years.
According to the study, retailers across the Middle East region are turning to private labels as they increase focus on bottom-line growth. Today private labels account for 10 percent of sales, up from 3 percent three years ago. The region is also witnessing a spread and increased uptake of e-commerce as trust in on-line payment increases and competency in logistics channels improve.
The growth of discount voucher websites signifies retailers leveraging the sentiment change in on-line spending behaviour. This mirrors the global trend of overall e-commerce growth outpacing physical retail in many markets providing retailers a great tool to test the market, learn about consumers and brand build without significant capital investment.
“GCC’s strong representation in the global index reflects the on-going opportunities for retailers looking to expand their brands in fast-growing markets. While retail activity here reflects many of the global trends, it also highlights the often regionally concentrated demographic segmentation of the consumer market¾the composition of which varies from region to region, demanding a targeted portfolio approach for successful go-to-market strategies,” explained Dr. Fabel.
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