For any retailer, an enhanced shopping experience based on price and quality is a priority for customer retention and sustaining the brand value. These aspects are directly related to purchases, be it clothing or grocery, especially at physical stores.
This edition, UAE’s Best Retail Companies 2021, brings into spotlight, innovative retail companies that have ingrained their value propositions within the needs of their customers, seeking to become the most sought-after retail brands in the UAE.
One prominent name among such companies is the BFL (Brands for Less) Group, a leading off-price retailer of fashion, homeware, and toys. The group has expanded its business with more than 74 stores spread across six countries in the Middle East and Europe.
The goal is to prioritize customer satisfaction by integrating innovation at the very heart of what the company does, according to the BFL Group’s business model.
“Our retail model makes every BFL store visit into an experience, a treasure hunt with the latest innovative products, items and gadgets waiting to be discovered. Customers love the fact that they can always find new products on shelves at exceptional value and great bargains within our large selection of categories,” says Nathalie Hamad, Retail Manager at BFL Group.
The BFL Group offers a wide variety of off-price fashion and homeware products and toys from more than 4,000 designer brands. The company offers high-end luxury brands at a discount of up to 80 per cent of the original retail price.
Apart from a strong business culture, the BFL Group believes in leading by example. For instance, the company provides comfortable environment for the employees; focuses on enhancing their sense of belonging; and recognizes their contributions to the organization.
“Having employees who engage with the company, has helped us become who we are today. Due to the efforts that we have put in over the years, we have managed to become a leading player in the region (off-price industry). Moreover, the success formula of our business model is to provide our customers a string of daily new arrivals, exclusive items and treasure hunt. Who doesn’t love a great deal?” says Toufic Kreidieh, Chief Executive Officer of the BFL Group.
A Strong Foundation
Kreidieh has been serving as CEO at BFL Group since the company’s inception. He is an entrepreneur and businessman, renowned for establishing the BFL (Brands for Less) Group alongside the Managing Partner and Co-Founder, Yasser Beydoun.
The two entrepreneurs started this enterprise with their flagship concept ‘Brands For Less’ in 1996 in Lebanon. As the business developed, they moved the company’s headquarters to Dubai, United Arab Emirates and launched their first store in 2000. Today, the BFL Group has a large retail presence in the Middle East and Europe and has exclusive rights to distribute several international brands.
Kreidieh and Beydoun have successfully expanded BFL’s by creating and acquiring different concepts like Toys For Less, Homes For Less, Tchibo, Mumuso and Muy Mucho, a renowned Spanish Home décor brand which was launched recently in the UAE.
The founders’ perseverance is an inspiration for the organisation which comprises more than 2,500 employees and has an e-commerce platform that is capable of catering to customers from all over the world.
Providing valuable advice to budding entrepreneurs in the retail business, Kreidieh says: “When Beydoun and I first started, there was no other off-price retailer in the Middle East. Over the course of 25 years, we have had to make sure that a customer-centric approach continues to lead our journey.”
“We believe the key to success, particularly in our case, is to integrate unique merchandise purchasing and inventory turnover into our retail model, creating a treasure-hunt experience, which adds surprise element in the shopping experience as customers explore our new assortment, in-store and online.”
Kreidieh further adds: “Finding out which customer insights your business can tap into and creating a positive experience around them is key to staying focused and working hard to achieve your business vision. Many people will say that it is impossible, but we know that there is no gain without pain. As we always say, the sky is the limit.”
The BFL Group also experienced an impact on its operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kreidieh says the company’s retail stores witnessed a drop in sales last year, along with footfall because of the lockdown and corresponding precautionary measures.
“The fashion industry has been substantially affected by the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, we were absolutely and firmly committed to ensuring the safety, wellbeing, and health of all our employees and customers, while also preserving the sustainability of our business during such uncertain times. We always aim to provide the best solution for everyone. We are also one of the first retail companies to have 99 per cent of its employees vaccinated as we believe that it is our responsibility towards the society. Therefore, it was a Shot of Solidarity,” he says.
In the initial days of lockdown, the BFL Group solely relied on online shopping and took all necessary measures to deliver entirely safe packages to its customers. As governmental restrictions were gradually lifted, a large amount of people headed back to the malls leading to a rise in footfall.
To ensure the steady stream of customers, the company has adopted the best hygiene and safety measures across its 74 branches, warehouses, and offices since the beginning of the pandemic. The BFL’s facilities have been reorganised to meet the community needs and to offer a safe shopping experience.
On the necessity of adopting and implementing modern technologies within a business, Kreidieh believes that evolving with the new technologies is no longer optional. Instead, it is essential for the development of any business.
“Therefore, we have partnered with IQ robotics to leverage faster turnaround, injecting new stock into our branches. With over 160 robots, the BFL Group’s shop fulfilment will have a processing power of 150,000 pieces a day,” explains Kreidieh.
With a decrease in footfall due to COVID-19 restrictions in malls, the BFL Group has increased investment in e-commerce since the pandemic began. To combat that, the company is developing an online fulfilment centre dedicated solely for its online orders. With an aim to improve its e-commerce channel, BFL believes this new facility acquisition will have a positive impact on the company’s revenue and online business growth.
In addition to this expansion, the BFL Group is keen on becoming a more sustainable organization. Therefore, the company has recently partnered with Al Rostamani Group and invested in a 958 KW solar project which will generate around 1,600,000 kWh of solar energy and save 700 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.
“Working together to become a more environmentally responsible organization will help us deliver on our promise to ensure the welfare of the community,” says Yasser Beydoun.
Striving for Excellence
Speaking about the BFL Group’s plans on scaling its operations in 2021, Kreidieh says it is the start of a new adventure. “The BFL Group has expanded into Europe, and we will be operating four MUMUSO stores by the end of this year in Malta. This will pave the way for the company’s growth in more than four European countries within the next five years.”
Moreover, the BFL Group is determined to further grow in the Middle East and has already started an expansion plan that covers Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Oman. Additionally, the company is also looking forward to having its products shipped worldwide through its extensive e-commerce platform and eventually become pioneers in the online value sector.
The BFL Group acknowledges that the overall e-commerce market, especially the direct-to-consumer segment, is growing exponentially. The changes that would have taken place over a decade are now being accommodated in a matter of months following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company has not shied away from the challenge and is committed to continuously adapt and expand to successfully fulfil the growing needs of its customers.
Moreover, the state-of-the-art e-commerce fulfilment facility will be built on more than 30,000 sqm of land in order to mark BFL’s presence in the market as the company aims to go global.
“The facility will be ready by Q1 of 2021 and we are excited to reap the fruit of our efforts,” concludes Kreidieh.
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