The Co-Dubai - one of the first incubators and co-working spaces to be certified by Dubai SME -  is announcing the launch of the region’s first Retail Accelerator Program, an affordable program that reduces barriers for retail & e-commerce entrepreneurs through a variety of services including regulatory set up, payment gateway set-up and ongoing mentoring.

The program which soft launched within the UAE late last year, and now boasts over 20 new brands, allows entrepreneurs to test products and commence trading online or offline with a low financial commitment thanks to a shared general trade license and bank account. Among the other benefits the program offers are an online payment gateway to connect with retailers’ websites,  access to storage and logistic facilities for local delivery fulfillment services, as well as an extensive network of established relationships with DHL for international delivery services, e-commerce giant, as well as with government departments such a Dubai Municipality for approvals for food and beauty products, and Dubai Customs, for importing and exporting.

The program also provides advice and guidance across a variety of areas, access to The Co- Dubai’s Downtown coworking space, monthly mentoring with business coaches, and access to educational programs. The program has also launched in The Co’s London outpost with a view to create more international opportunities for retail brands enlisted.

The launch of the Program follows the announcement last September of the Dubai eCommerce strategy which aims to solidify the emirate's position as a hub for global e-commerce. At the time, the Dubai Executive Council, which made the announcement, noted that that e-commerce is set to contribute AED12 billion to the local GDP by 2023. Widely cited reports from Visa also suggest that the UAE’s retail sector’s value – including eCommerce - is set to top $63.8 billion by 2023 with the non-store category forecasted to grow 78% from 2018 to 2023.  

Despite the opportunities growing within the retail sector, many small e-commerce brands could miss out according to the founder of The Co- Dubai which has launched the Retail Accelerator Program.

 “Last year’s announcement of Dubai eCommerce’s Strategy is an extremely positive step forward for the emirate’s growing community of retail and e-commerce entrepreneurs and businesses,” said Shahzad Bhatti, Founder and Owner of The Co- Dubai. “The strategy is sure to boost the sector as a whole, and in particular medium to large-sized firms. Small and micro-sized retail and e-commerce businesses however still need a lot of support navigating the establishment process and getting to a point where they can trade, and that’s where we come in with the Retail Accelerator Program.”

Among the key barriers for retail entrepreneurs according to Bhatti are costs of set-up, various regulations regarding imports and exports as well as entry into the banking system which can be difficult for micro-businesses.

“A trade license is a significant investment for a micro-entrepreneur or a small business that has yet to, or does not want to seek funding, particularly if there are major costs related to stock and products.” added Bhatti. “The Retail Accelerator Program not only gives retail and e-commerce entrepreneurs the legal framework to operate, but also the ability to accept payments, mentoring and guidance within the regulatory framework associated with their products, as well as ongoing advice related to matters across technology, legal, marketing areas. Ultimately, entrepreneurs under the program are able to test out their concepts and products with a relatively low risk before they invest further or seek funding.”

To ensure the success of businesses enrolled in the program, a limited number of placements are available monthly.  Among the 20 brands already enrolled are a variety of new retail and e-commerce concepts representing fashion, floral, cosmetics, gifts and eco-friendly products.  Among two brands already seeing the benefit of the program are eco-friendly retail portal, The TurtleFeet Company and luxury wedding shoe concept, Hitchttheshoe.

“Hitchdtheshoe's first product, Hitch'd Gents is a completely new concept with a vision to make weddings, work and functions much easier, and more stylish and comfortable for men. We're currently working on new products that will be released when the time is right and working with the Retail Accelerator Program has allowed us to focus more of our efforts and resources on developing our product line to the highest standards, ” said Marc Bakhos, Founder of Hitchdtheshoe. “The Retail Accelerator program has guided us every step of the way, saving us both money as well as an immense amount of time which in turn, has resulted in us going to market earlier and with less investment."

For Fatema Presswala, one of the Co-Founders of the Turtlefeet Company, an online store for sustainable living, the Retail Accelerator Program allowed her and her partners to focus solely on growing the business as it also provided invaluable guidance: “Along with all the benefits of quick and easy legal set up and access to banking, we also find the program’s mentoring and networking opportunities extremely helpful. I think for many entrepreneurs, it can be a lonely endeavor and you’re often navigating through uncharted territory. For us, having a go-to person and network for advice and guidance through both the set-up process, and as we continue to grow has been invaluable.”

The Co- Dubai is one of the first incubators and co-working spaces to be certified by Dubai SME. With offices in Souk Al Bahar, in Downtown Dubai and in London, England, The Co-  Dubai regularly assists both aspiring and established entrepreneurs through their bright and vibrant co-working spaces, educational seminars and programs and special events such as the Dubai SME Summer Exchange Program which last summer, saw 10 local entrepreneurs travel to London to learn about global marketing and expansion.

For more information on the Retail Accelerator Program, please call The Co- Dubai at 04 427 2106 or visit

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