Why did you decide to join Paris Gallery? What has changed in the company since you joined and what do you enjoy most?
I want to start by saying that I love challenges, and one of the main reasons for me joining Paris Gallery was for the challenges I believed I would face. Yes, I had a lot of experience, especially in marketing, beginning as a junior designer, and climbing the corporate ladder to where I was appointed the Vice President of an advertising agency. And since I had never marketed fashion and lifestyle products previously, Paris Gallery offered me a number of challenges. In your career, you reach stages where challenges are monotonous and you do not learn anything new. I was offered the chance to head the marketing team of the leading fashion and luxury retailer, which was a new challenge for me. I took the offer.
Marketing trends were surging ahead in adopting changes in digital marketing strategies and exploring digital marketing trends at the time when I joined Paris Gallery. Digital marketing was growing to play a major role in any marketing plan, especially in the last three to four years with the advancement of smartphones. I realized at that time that the future of marketing and communication is through digital channels since marketing had to respond to changes in both consumer behavior and technology. My vision was to build Paris Gallery’s presence on digital channels. Therefore, I balanced regular communication methods — offline and print mediums — with digital marketing channels, adding a touch of luxury to our digital marketing messages because you have to make sure that you are in harmony with current trends, not losing your brand identity, existing customers and positioning.
Maintaining a balance was very critical. We succeeded in bringing the company to this desired stage with the help of a dedicated marketing team and the help of my connections, both with bloggers and media personnel. Today, I can say with confidence that we have succeeded in gaining a strong offline and online presence through print media and digital media. Paris Gallery is a well-established brand with a modern and trendy look. We meet the needs of the new era; I do not want to call it new generation because even the old generation is now increasingly turning to digital platforms. They now read their news and economic reports online and on tablets and smartphones.
One of our main challenges was to convince a majority of the luxury brands to go social on social media platforms. We managed to do so, and now they are addressing fans and customers both regionally and globally through these mediums. Luxury brands were also reluctant to advertise on even against going on digital screens, but now they are all demanding for digital screens on their counters.
Another thing that changed for me was the concept about luxury. Luxury is not all about expensive things. Luxury is anything that makes you feel comfortable. Everyone deserves luxury, so instead of focusing only on high-income groups, we started communicating with mid-income groups, their segments and sub-segments, given that this region has more than 300 nationalities residing in it. And by targeting all these groups, we ensured that the turnover of Paris Gallery was sustainable. People began to feel that Paris Gallery was for them. It is said that marketing cannot reach customers at a personal level, however, we were successful in reaching our customers at this level. We did this through tactical offers in-store and by generating messages that had a personal touch to them. For example, our recent #iloveparisgallery campaign saw many families, kids and couples take pictures at our stores and posting it on social media using the hashtag #iloveparisgallery. We were very happy to establish such relationships with our customers.
Finally, we take great pride in having brands trust us to plan and execute their complete marketing campaigns, events and new launches. I am also honored that we have upheld this reputation across all cities we are active in.
What I enjoy most about my job is the challenges I face, especially the new ones. To be more specific, I reached a stage in my life when I thought there was nothing new to learn. I do not want to sound egotistical, but with an experience that spans a number of years, starting from the days when we did not the luxury of using emails. I do not want to sound old, but I started working at a very young age. At Paris Gallery, I learn something new every day. Every time I meet a designer, a perfumer, creator, or a brand owner, I learn new things. This is what I enjoy the most. It is always a great thing to be able to learn something new every day.
In your opinion, what is the main reason why many luxury business fail to succeed? Are there any secrets of success?
Yes, there are! One of the reasons why many luxury businesses fail to succeed is for the very same reason I mentioned in the beginning, which is that they tend to focus only on the wealthy people. I believe that if luxury brands start communicating more to the mid-income earners, they would have more customers and more sales, because at the end of the day, it is all about numbers.
A second reason would be lack of quality customer service. I was recently at a high-end fashion boutique with my wife nearing closing time, and the staff were hurrying us to make a purchase or leave. When asked why, their reply was that they were not being paid overtime by their employer so they didn’t have to stay beyond working hours. Retailers or brands need to understand that their target segments which are both the high- and mid-income consumers will not accept such an attitude.
A third reason would be — what I mentioned earlier — that most of the luxury brands failed to meet the new era of communication. Customers who have shopped with them for a long time have adapted to this change and they expect their brands to adapt too. When brands do not, they move to another brand who have adapted. When I say communication, I mean total marketing communication, online and offline, and PR. it is all about communication. Knowing the what, why, when and whom are very important for any kind of successful communication.
One final reason I believe brands fail is that they think globally and act globally, whereas they should think globally and act locally. They have to tailor their ideas for the country or region they operate in while customizing the communication to resonate with their audience.
What values does PG add to UAE’s luxury retail experience?
It is our statement that we are the leading luxury retailer, and we are ready to challenge anyone who is willing to dispute that. We are the leaders because we continuously strive to meet the needs and demands of our customers. We understand the consumers of this region. Wherever we go, we first make sure to understand them. In the UAE alone, there are more than 200 nationalities, and we understands them all — their culture, the trends they follow, what they celebrate — which is why we have people from more than 80 countries working for us. In my department alone, we have 10 different nationalities, having three different generations at the same time. I made sure we had this mix because it is not only my opinion that matters but also the collective opinion during our brainstorming sessions. I want to hear the young generation’s opinion on a matter, the second and third generation’s opinions, from where we come up with the right message to suit all groups of people.
The other thing is the opulent space that we afford our customers in most of our stores that gives them the privacy they need to shop leisurely. Products that our customers look for in our stores, be it cosmetics or perfumes, watches or accessories for women and men, it is something personal to them, and our customers want to shop leisurely. It is between the customer and sales staff. The Arabic hospitality we afford our customers is unlike any other. Our seating areas are luxurious and comfortable. And this is a very important part of making our customers feel as guests. In other stores, customers have to wait for a considerable amount of time even to get a glass of water and maybe a chair in some corner. Our customers can relax over Arabic coffee and premium dates, and have a dedicated. Many of our loyal customers sometimes just come over to have coffee and dates.
Another reason is a name UAE consumers can trust. Paris Gallery has been around for almost 20 years. The company has brought in a number of well-known international brands into the country, and we are trusted for the quality of products we sell. Wherever we go, we carry this trust. We get comments on social media about people saying that now Paris Gallery has come they can be sure of getting a genuine product.
Finally, we bring value to UAE’s luxury retail experience through the introduction of luxury brands seeking new markets into the country. Many of the luxury brands in the UAE took off from a Paris Gallery Launchpad.
Which kind of services do you provide for the clients of your creations that the competition does not?
Paris Gallery’s marketing department is a 360 degrees in-house advertising agency — from design to creation to production, PR, social media, and events execution and management. You would be surprised to know that we are one of those departments who can run marketing campaigns in three to four languages. We were one of the first few luxury brands who used the Arabic language on Facebook posts. We just do not accept any campaigns from brand principals just for the sake of accepting them, but we first make sure that it is workable and that it suits the audience of this region. If it is fine, we go with it, otherwise we make sure to send our recommendations. With a very capable and dedicated team, we have been successful in the last three years doing more than 150 events — both media and customer events — for Paris Gallery or the brands. Such a team is not available in any other groups, and they hire PR agencies to do their work. I am not saying that one should not hire a PR agency, it is the brands who decides how they want to go about it. Some of our brands have only one or two events in a year and so request our support. Sometimes it’s an important product launch with a small budget, so we extend our maximum support to all brands. It’s not only about events and advertisements, but also creating huge awareness by letting them participate in some of the government initiatives.
Could you share with us your opinion – regarding the importance of partnering with luxury events internationally and local?
As I said before, learning is an ongoing process. Collaborating with luxury events either internationally or locally is very important as it is then that brainstorming, exchange of ideas, and creating takes place. Sometimes we have doubts about our decisions regardless of the outcome, and we can probably approach things in a different way. Such events help in the development and learning process. In addition to all of that, it’s also good to learn about the challenges or the trends in the other markets and sectors. It also helps create and build strong connections.