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Villa Moda vs Harvey Nichols

Harvey Nichols, Villa Moda

Prada, Yves Saint Laurent, Roberto Cavalli, Armani…you name it, Gulf countries have them all. In a region where, thanks to steady demographic growth - half of the population is under 25 - and sustained spending capacity, not to forget the 15 million tourists that are expected to hit Dubai annually by 2010, the luxury goods market shows little sign of slowing down.

With an estimated $167 billion regional market, growing by an average 10 percent annually (and by 20 to 30 percent yearly in Dubai alone), home-bred luxury retailers such as Villa Moda, funded in 2002 by Majed Al-Sabah who has been dubbed “sheikh of chic” since, or international upmarket department store chains like UK-based Harvey Nichols (with exclusive license to Al-Tayer Group, one of the largest luxury fashion and jewellery companies in the Middle East), have been stepping up. For those driven by hard cash, this is no time for thinking or investing small.

Bling business

“Everyone thinks our women are wrapped up in veils and chadors. In fact, this is a very liberal and free community”, often complains Kuwaiti prince Majed Al-Sabah, founder of Villa Moda. With sales last year of $73 million against $25 million a few years back, he has all the evidence he needs. Such figures are the reason global competitors such as Harvey Nichols have been lured to the region.

Al-Sabah has established a collection of 11 upscale “luxury bazaars” across Dubai, Kuwait, Qatar, London, Syria and Bahrain, each with distinctive looks as for the 37 years old Kuwaiti prince, style prevails on size; “the Sheikh” housed one of his outlet in a converted 17th century stable in Damascus’ Old City, opened a 16,500sqm Moda Mall in Bahrain designed by awarded designer Marcel Wanders and hired acclaimed designer Philippe Starck to create his “future luxury street” in Qatar, planned to open in 2010. Villa Moda will also open a 5,000sqm over three levels store in London by 2009, in iconic Art Deco site Battersea Power Station, invading Harvey Nic’s terrain which.

In 2001, Harvey Nics opened in Saudi Arabia with a 8,000sqm site in the Al Faisaliah mall, despite local limitations such as exclusively male sales staffing and competition of men’s traditional clothing.

“Our decision to choose Riyadh for our first overseas outlet is based primarily on the area’s significant market potential,” declared Joseph Wan, CEO of the group. Only later, in 2006, did Harvey Nichols partner up with Al-Tayer Group to open an outlet in tricky fast-growing Dubai, where people have access to all the brands they want in boutique formats and where women are the shopping decision-makers. Its Mall of the Emirates venue is the group’s biggest store outside of London and was launched with crystal clear ambitions: to become the benchmark for luxurious shopping in the UAE. No less than $27 million was invested in a 12,500sqm flagship boasting 35 prestigious labels in fashion, beauty and home d


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