The 9th edition of the Middle East Retail Forum, which will take place at the Conrad Dubai Hotel on November 2, will focus on the digital transformation of the region’s retail sector. The theme of the conference, ‘The Masterplan of Retail Transformation’, points towards the crucial importance of digital transformation, an area where global spending is expected to increase by 10.4 per cent in 2020 to touch $1.3 trillion, according to Statista, and e-commerce sales set to jump to $48.6 billion in 2022, up from $26.9 billion in 2018, according to recent research.

Key industry officials including Renuka Jagtiani, Chairwoman and CEO of Landmark Group, Patrick Chalhoub, CEO of Chalhoub Group; Ashish Panjabi, COO of Jacky’s Group of Companies and Jacky’s Retail LLC; Piyush Kumar Chowhan, Group CIO of Lulu Group International; Hisham Al Amoudi, Group CEO of Kamal Osman Jamjoom Group; Hozefa Saylawala, Director of Sales at Zebra Technologies; Mark Tesseyman, CEO of LIWA Trading Enterprises; Marwan Moukarzel, CEO of Fawaz Alhokair Fashion Retail; Tapan Vaidya, CEO of PJP Investments Group; Phillip Smith, Group Head of Digital at Kamal Osman Jamjoom Group; Ryan den Rooijen, Group Head of Data and Analytics of Chalhoub Group will join Amitabh Taneja, Chairman of Images Group at the inaugural sessions.

Both Patrick Chalhoub and Renuka Jagtiani will deliver keynote speeches on ‘Unprecedented Opportunities of an Unparalleled Crisis’ in their respective fireside chats.

The morning sessions – Tech-ing it Forward and Purpose-fitted Digital Transformation – will see retail leaders share inside stories of how they rejigged operations through enhanced digitalisation initiatives. The sessions will point towards technology being ‘the’ enabler for retail transformation.

In the afternoon session, Cameron Mitchell, CEO, Majid Al Futtaim Leisure & Entertainment and Cinemas will join Halima Jumani, Director, Kibsons; Ian Ohan, Founder, KRUSH Brands; Isobel Abulhoul, Co-founder, Magrudy’s; Kiran Karanki, CEO, Semnox Solutions; and Raed Hafez, CEO, elGrocer at the panel discussion on Engagement & Loyalty: How Data and Service Upped the Ante.

E-commerce has been one of the main focus areas within the retail industry in 2020. The session titled Growing in Power: The E-commerce Surge will see subject matter experts Heba Al Fazari, Founder, Coveti; Majed M. Al Tahan, Founder and CEO, AYM and Co-founder and Managing Director, Danube Online; Neelam Keswani, Director, Glamazle; and Jeremy Denisty, Customer Director – Operational Lead Mena, Scopernia discuss the future of online retail.

The 9th edition of the Middle East Retail Forum runs concurrently at the same venue with the 10th RetailME Awards that will honour the region’s best performing retailers across 21 categories. This will be one of the first such physical events taking place in the UAE after the Covid-19 pandemic halted events since March this year.

Aptly titled The Masterplan of Retail Transformation, the Middle East Retail Forum will host more than 200 delegates – restricted to 40per cent of the ballroom capacity – to ensure social distancing. This will be the first such event to take place maintaining social distance protocol and all health and safety regulations stipulated by the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) – and reflect the organiser’s strong determination to defy the odds. This also reflects the resilience of the region’s retail sector that has been dominating the economic landscape of the Middle East.

In the GCC, mass internet adoption has resulted from a combination of digital infrastructure and eager consumer adoption of technology-driven solutions, such as social media and smartphones. The wider Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region has taken its own route to digital adoption, leap-frogging traditional channels of evolution, according to a research by Visa International.

“Today, Middle East nations are ahead of more mature e-commerce markets such as the United States and China in terms of internet penetration, which stood at 64.5 per cent, above the global average of 54.5 per cent,” it said.

“Delayed adoption, followed by high digital and social penetration, has meant that GCC consumers have jumped straight to mobile commerce, or m-commerce, and operate across digital platforms with ease. The total market size, including all categories, has been estimated to be worth $48.6 billion in 2022, up from $26.9 billion in 2018.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the retail sector and transformed consumers as it is rapidly changing the $25 trillion global retail landscape, so much so that the global e-commerce sales are set to grow from $4.13 trillion in 2020 to $4.8 trillion in 2021.

Justina Eitzinger, chief operating officer of Images Group Middle East, organiser of the Middle East Retail Forum and RetailME Awards, said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has defined and accelerated transformation of the retail landscape, bringing with it, several new opportunities!

“Organising the 9th Middle East Retail Forum and the 10th RetailME Awards under this extremely challenging environment reflects our resolve, conviction and commitment to our industry that is so resilient. The pandemic has reminded us that only change is constant, and we must be agile, responsive and future fit to perform and thrive in the constantly changing environment.

“We are very excited to organise both the conference and the RetailME Awards 2020 on the same day. We will recognise the incredible retailers that have championed transformation, innovation and customer experience.”

“As the retail sector faces challenges and embraces change, we expect a number of developments taking place in the retail industry in the next years. The region’s retailers will benefit from the insights and best practices that will be shared through the keynote addresses, presentations, fireside chats and panel discussions. We urge both retailers and the enablers and solution providers to the retail industry to join this knowledge sharing initiative.”

The 9th Middle East Retail Forum, the region’s most prestigious and the only such event for the retail sector, will host a number of keynote speakers, presenters and five panel discussions in which 35+ retail industry leaders will share their insights on the changing retail landscape.

The panel discussion Looking ahead: Retail churn or opportunity? will bring together Ahmed Ragab, Group CEO, Baraka Retail Group; Bart Denolf, CEO – Franchise, Sacoor Brothers Group, Mohamed Attia, CEO, SALA Entertainment; and Naim Maadad, Chief Executive & Founder, Gates Hospitality to discuss the exciting opportunities that lie ahead.

An Insights session on Solving store experience for 2021 & beyond, will offer futuristic design innovation by Nathan Watts, Creative Director, Interstore I Schweitzer, while in another session Susan Ayton, Founder & Managing Director, Ayton Global Research will speak about regulatory structures around advertising claims, thereby helping brands to make profitable decisions.

Finally, the Start-up Conclave – Survival of the fittest will focus on home-grown start-ups; and through presentations to a jury panel, entrepreneurs that survived the COVID-19 storm will share how they pivoted to stay in business. The discussion will be participated by Farah Emara, Co-founder and CEO, FreshSource; Grace Karim and Somia Anwar, Co-founders, Bookends; Kristian Stinson, Co-founder and CEO, Hopi; Meenaxy Vashishtha, Founder, GoOrganic; Nawal El Masri, Founder and Storyteller, exhale; and Shamim Kassibawi, Founder, Play:Date. At the end of the Conclave, the jury panel will nominate the ‘Most Admired Start-up of the Year’ that will receive the coveted RetailME Awards trophy.

RetailME Awards is also the only such international awards programme for the retailers. In its 10th year, it is the most sought-after awards programme in the Middle East.


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