COVID-19 Impact: Retail set to witness massive windfall

The year 2020 has been a roller-coaster full of new learnings, quick pivotings and unprecedented challenges

  
A man wearing a protective face mask walks at Mall of the Emirates during the reopening of malls, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, May 28, 2020.

A man wearing a protective face mask walks at Mall of the Emirates during the reopening of malls, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, May 28, 2020.

REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

The Covid-19 pandemic has fast-tracked and brought the future to present, in terms of the digitial transformation process that has changed the $25 trillion retail sector forever, said industry experts at the ninth Middle East Retail Forum on Wednesday.

The year 2020 will go down in history as the most remarkable year in the history of the retail industry due to the transformation and the opportunities it brings. Both Renuka Jagtiani, chairwoman and CEO of Landmark Group, and Patrick Chalhoub, CEO of Chalhoub Group, delivered keynote speeches on ‘Unprecedented Opportunities of an Unparalleled Crisis’ and shared experiences on how they have led the transformation of their businesses.

“The year 2020 has been a roller-coaster full of new learnings, quick pivotings and unprecedented challenges, as the pandemic has created a new set of rules for the survival and success of retail industry. But we as a team take Covid as an opportunity to prove ourselves in tough times. It is only possible if we do proper teamwork, as the customer expectations have been changed, and the way we have to approach them should be far more creative and personalised from that we can easily develop the trust and interest in our customer,” said Jagtiani.

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 global e-commerce sales are set to grow from $4.13 trillion in 2020 to $4.8 trillion in 2021.

“As the term ‘new’ gives way to ‘next’ normal, the very defination of normalcy has changed. It has changed as retailers are rewiring business models, rethinking revenue centres and readjusting plans to adopt in a changed business environment. I hope the industry will soon get normal,” said Chalhoub.

Aptly titled ‘The Masterplan of Retail Transformation’, the Middle East Retail Forum hosted more than 250 delegates — restricted to 40 per cent of the ballroom capacity — to ensure social distancing. Justina Eitzinger, chief operating officer of Images Group Middle East, organiser of the Middle East Retail Forum and RetailME Awards, said: “Covid-19 has pushed the retail industry to embrace technology and the retailers to remodel their business to offer flawless and seamless experiences to the customers. In the future, the success of retailers will depend on pure customer convenience and a seamless experience. In a way, retailers will become technology-enabled end to end businesses delivering products to the door step. So instead of customers going to shops alone, the retailers will offering the experience at the stores yet bringing the products wherever the consumer prefers.”

Data is the new oil or the new soil. Data is perhaps the most important resource today, speakers stressed at the conference. In all GCC economies, e-commerce originally was expected to witness growth in excess of 50 per cent from 2019 to 2030, as a result of which e-commerce that accounted for 0.4 per cent of GCC GDP in 2018 was set to increase well over two per cent of GDP by 2030, according to a report by Frost and Sullivan.

“The retail sector is one of the key sectors that contribute significantly to GDP of UAE. The infrastructure, malls and retail platform attract global retailers and business leaders to the UAE. The annual Images RetailME Awards 2020, held along with Middle East Retail Forum (MRF), brings positivity and confidence in UAE residents as well as prospective investors/tourists. Such successful events, while maintaining social distancing and Covid protocols, portrays strong message about capability and efficient pandemic management by UAE. We are grateful and thankful to UAE leadership and for their initiatives and arrangements for the investors, business community and residents,” said Nimish Makvana, senior partner at Crowe Mak.

“Crowe UAE, marking its 40-year anniversary is playing the important role as Audit partner for RetailME Awards 2020 for past few years. Today, Dubai is the most sought place world over and this is big news for the growth of economy and businesses to getting back on grow path. Such visionary leadership will benefit all sectors for a speedier recovery.”

Running concurrently at the same venue, the 10th RetailME Awards, honoured the region’s best performing retailers across 21 categories. These are some of the first such physical events taking place in the UAE after the Covid-19 pandemic stopped events since March this year.

Hozefa Saylawala, director of sales at Zebra Technologies, said: “Since the pandemic, we have invested heavily in perceptive analytics and made some acquisition on machine learning technologies to offer flawless, seamless retail experiences through the use on advanced technologies. So, for us, the year 2020 has been one of the most successful.”

More than 250 delegates participated in some of the most exciting topics at the Middle East Retail Forum addressed by 35 speakers sharing their insights on the challenging global economic environment, while the RetailME Awards honoured brands and personalities across 21 categories.

 
 
 

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