UK retailers find Gulf is irresistible

M&Co, a Scottish fashion retailer with nearly 300 stores across the UK, will roll out its brand in Dubai and throughout the Gulf, seeking respite from weak sales at home.

Dubai,United Arab Emirates-May 10,  2012;  The New M&Co store opened at Dubai Mall in Dubai .  (  Satish Kumar / The National ) For Business
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A major British retailer is expanding across the Gulf, joining a host of peers from the United Kingdom seeking respite from weak sales at home.

M&Co, a Scottish fashion retailer with nearly 300 stores across the UK, will roll out its brand in Dubai and throughout the Gulf.

"We are launching the M&Co brand in the UAE and specifically in Dubai," said Lee Braid, the company's international franchise manager. "Our plan is to open 12 stores in the UAE over the next five years and 30 around the Gulf.

The retailer, which is being operated in the Middle East under a franchise agreement with Liwa Trading Enterprises, has agreed to open shops in Dubai Mall, Dubai Marina Mall and in the extension of Abu Dhabi's Al Wahda Mall in August. M&Co will also expand in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman.

"We have opened some successful stores in the UK using our city concept. We have taken that city concept and interpreted it for this local market," said Mr Braid.

M&Co is more than 50 years old and achieved sales last year in excess of £200 million (Dh1.18 billion). It caters for all age ranges and sells products for the home.

To begin with in Dubai, the stores will concentrate on selling womenswear and clothes for children.

"We will have expats who will know us and shop with us," said Mr Braid. "Tourists will shop with us and then of course the most important category will be the local customer."

M&Co is the latest in a line of retailers from UK that are expanding into Dubai and the Gulf as consumer spending falls in their home market on the back of harsh austerity measures introduced by the British government to cut a huge budget deficit.

MHAlshaya, one of the biggest retailers in the Middle East and based in Kuwait, earlier this year bought 60 of La Senza's UK stores as the lingerie brand joined a number of peers in seeking bankruptcy proceedings.

In January, both Asda and Tesco, two of the biggest supermarket retailers in Britain, announced they would launch their budget fashion brands in the Middle East.

WHSmith, a newspaper, magazine and stationary retailer, has also announced expansion in the UAE. The department store House of Fraser is set to open its doors in Abu Dhabi in February.

"I think very few people are bucking the trend [in the UK]," said Iain McGeoch, the chairman and chief executive of M&Co. "It's a tricky place at the moment. But this expansion is not because of the UK high street. We have been planning this for some time."

Sales of clothing goods are expected to reach US$11.5bn (Dh42.2bn) in the UAE and Saudi Arabia this year, according to Euromonitor.

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