UAE-based budget retailer Brands For Less Group (BFL) has invested $12 million in its ecommerce activities, with company co-founder Yasser Beydoun predicting its online presence will grow to 50 percent of total operations in the next five years.
BFL opened its first store in Beirut, Lebanon in 1996 and four years later launched in the UAE, moving its headquarters to Dubai where it remains today.
The region’s largest off-price retailer employs over 1,700 people and has 65 stores across the Middle East and, more recently, one in Spain.
However, Beydoun revealed the onset of coronavirus, with the various lockdowns and curfews, saw the company’s online business increase by 50 percent.
He told Arabian Business: “We really channelled all our resources towards creating a very powerful ecommerce platform because we really want to become the pioneers in the online value sector, not only the bricks-and-mortar value sector.”
This includes the purchase of a 30,000 square metre warehouse in Jebel Ali Freezone, which will be a state-of-the-art, semi-automated ecommerce facility.
“The investment that we’re putting in the online exceeds $12 million, in terms of everything,” said Beydoun.
“Things were changing from the beginning (switch to online) but they were going on the natural mode of change, now the whole process has been going at a different pace, due to Covid-19, due to the restrictions and safety measures etc.
“For the time being it’s only 20 percent of the business (ecommerce). Our aim is always to bring it up to 50 percent,” he added.
However, that will not be at the expense of the expansion plans for the bricks-and-mortar operation, which has recovered to 90 percent of pre-Covid levels, according to co-founder Toufic Kreidieh.
The company has opened 15 stores in the last two years and further stores are set to open in Kuwait and Oman before the end of the year.
“We had certain plans before the Covid-19 to expand outside the region, for us to be able to diversify a little bit our risk. The first thing we thought of was to head towards Europe. We opened, just before the Covid, our first stores between Spain and Malta. This was a new adventure,” said Kreidieh.
“I think you will start seeing us in Eastern Europe because it’s a very interesting market for us. There’s lots of interesting discussions taking place right now. Some of them are direct investment, some are joint ventures with local retailers in different countries across Eastern Europe,” he added.