Qatar rises to the top of the Middle East retail scene


As the Middle East retail scene continues to flourish, it is Qatar – with its rapid pace of economic growth, great levels of investment in infrastructure and the highest GDP in the world per capita – that is seeing an influx of new store openings from the key players of the retail world.

Consumers in Qatar are considered to have one of the highest levels of disposable income in the world, and with the population set to top three million by 2018, court & spark consulting is seeing a plethora of roles opening up in retail.

Using the booming market to strengthen their international footprint, brands are flocking to the country to take advantage of the buoyant retail development activity which is now the second largest construction market, after residential development. With over a dozen operational malls currently, and another 27 planned for the end of 2015, candidates looking to relocate to the region can consider a wealth of attractive career opportunities.

Of course, making an international move can be considered risky. Not only do you need to be prepared to embrace a whole new way of life, often away from family and friends, but you also need to ensure that, particularly in the case of new developments, the role you travel for is sustainable – and this is another area where Qatar is triumphing.

Because of its rapid development plans, the country has released the Qatar National Vision 2030 document – which among other things, outlines its aims of being an advanced society capable of sustaining its development and providing a high standard of living for all of its people. If you like the sound of working internationally then we at court & spark consulting can help and are currently recruiting for a role. Get in touch here.

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Whilst the UK’s retail sector continues to face an uncertain economy, on-going growth and development of the retail market within the Middle East continues to generate fresh and exciting career opportunities for experienced retail executives. court & spark recently headed East on a lightening tour of the region to meet a series of retail contacts to discuss live and future retail executive search assignments.

The trip, which took in Dubai and Kuwait has provided some great insight into the professional and cultural dimensions that working in the region can offer. Claire Beasley comments: “Latest research from Dubai indicates that 80% of people working there are ex-pats, and similar fast growth of the international community in the neighbouring states of Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait makes it clear that relocation to the Middle East is an attractive prospect. Retailers in the market hold UK retailer operators in high regard and are prepared to invest to bring the right talent into the market, but they are looking for candidates who are prepared to make relocation a long term decision and not just as a short term stint in the sun.” “Visiting multiple locations as part of our tour really enabled us to experience at first-hand how the different states within the Middle East have their own economic, cultural and lifestyle differences. In particular we were struck with how Kuwait offered a more laid-back living environment when compared to the fast-paced glitz of Dubai.” With court & spark briefed to handle a host of hot assignments from across the region we look forward to supporting the development of the Middle East retail scene and welcome interested candidates to please do get in touch to find out more.

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There is no doubt that technology is changing the way retailers operate, both in terms of retail channels and infrastructure options. Technology and IT touches upon all areas of the retail business, and as a consequence retail executives need to embrace the digital landscape and understand the opportunities and threats it can offer. The attitude is starting to change, but for too long Chairmen, CEOs and FDs have left the responsibility for making technology decisions to their IT team.

Disengagement from the most senior people in the organisation means that as retail businesses move to reinforce their in-house technology expertise, CEOs need practical help to advise on the job specification they need. In the past organisations would bring in an IT Director to be responsible for the organisation’s technology, but today that role could be Chief Information Officer, Chief Innovation Officer, Multi-Channel Director, E-Commerce Director or Chief Technology Officer.

Whilst many senior retailers have been quick to tap into technology, there are not enough of them around to meet the demands of retail businesses that need people who understand both retailing and IT. The result is that we have seen a migration of experienced IT operators from parallel industries such as banking and utilities into the retail sector, who are now sitting on the boards of retail companies.

The smartest use of technology adoption will come from retailers who combine IT and retail understanding, so if the digital world isn’t second nature and retailers aren’t ‘digital native’, the time has come to force themselves to go ‘digital immigrant’ and commit to understanding how technology can make their retail business more effective, efficient and competitive.

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If the local elections have put you in the voting mood, now’s the time to cast a crucial vote in the retail world as the Co-operative asks it members to put themselves forward for election to one of the 48 Co-operative committee’s across the country.

With a local presence in many market towns and suburban high streets, safeguarding the future of the Co-operative is particularly vital for their neighbouring, predominantly independent retailers who share the same street.

The Co-operative model means card carrying members can step up and put themselves forward to be elected to the regional boards across the country. It’s a voluntary role, but critical to ensure that the Co-operative continues to be run for and by members. This democracy means that currently the 15 members who sit on the Co-operative’s main board include a farmer, university lecturer and a nurse. Whilst diversity is essential for all boards, perhaps if some of the member representatives also bought with them professional retail sector experience the board would be better placed to have the skills they need to safeguard the future of the organisation.

In particular people working within the independent retail sector may have the most to offer as the size of the businesses in which they operate means they are more likely to be fluent in all aspects of retail including finance, marketing, HR and supply chain. Add that to the need for high street retailers to work together to maintain the relevance of local shopping amongst consumers and it’s clear that local retailers and the Co-operative network can help each other out.

So retail industry people sitting on the board of the Co-operative has to be a vote winner for us all.

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With the strongest economy in Europe, increased consumer spending and a plethora of central shopping hotspots – Germany is the latest country to enjoy an influx of new store openings from the key players of the fashion retail world who are all using the market to strengthen their European footprint.

Though traditionally retailers might focus expansion opportunities in a capital city, Germany’s vibrant retail sector enables international retail brands to consider a number of major cities including Frankfurt, Cologne, Hamburg, Dusseldorf and Munich in addition to Berlin, from which to base their operations. Good infrastructure, a stable economy and strong talent pool provides international retailers with the environment to establish new operational hubs, together with a positive investment climate thanks to the increasing spending and confidence being demonstrated by consumers in their shopping habits.

A number of retailers recently have already strengthened their European presence by investing into Germany, with Primark announcing plans to increase its stores in the country to 150 and new store openings from fashion giants Fendi and Abercrombie & Fitch in the pipeline. Great economic stability can offer career stability, and this also makes Germany an attractive relocation prospect for candidates who are able to further enhance the retail talent bank.

If you’re looking to make an international move I have recently joined court & spark consulting as the German Associate based in Berlin. You can get in touch by emailing or calling our office on 0203 178 5090.

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As the retail sector in the Middle East continues to flourish, the bright lights, iconic malls and booming tourism trade of Dubai means the city is a hotspot attracting many senior retail executives looking to make a career move to the Middle East. However, our trip to the Middle East earlier this year enabled us to experience at first hand the variety of opportunities that exist across the region.

Kuwait, whilst it can be overshadowed by its neighbour, is still a key player in the region’s retail sector attracting international brands and high-flying business men and women from across the globe.

Great economic development means the region is rapidly gaining its share of the spotlight and many British brands are beginning to focus on expansion opportunities in the area too.

Offering great career stability, namely down to a strong domestic market and its non-reliance on tourism, Kuwait also offers a high standard of living, has a focus on bettering its education system and can boast high salaries and the benefit of tax-free earnings.

Whilst this does make Kuwait an attractive relocation prospect – candidates shouldn’t look at an International move based on the lifestyle benefits alone.

It should be noted that Kuwait does not allow alcohol consumption, and it is a little less frantic than the Dubai lifestyle, but our personal view was it offered a great environment for more laid-back living, and in particular would suit retailers who may relocate with family in tow.

The job market in the small Gulf state is competitive, but relevant experience, demonstrating commitment and motivation and respecting the local culture will see rewarding and exciting retail job opportunities emerging.

If you’re looking to make an international move – get in touch here.

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As two women passionate about retail, the everywoman in Retail Awards have always been a key event which we have supported for many years.

Each year, everywoman shines the spotlight on the amazing career achievements of women in retailing at a glitzy award ceremony. This year, the event has evolved from the usual format and instead of handing out Oscar style awards, the event will announce the new Retail Ambassadors as determined by a prestigious cohort of retail industry judges.

The programme has not been open to nominations, but an Advisory Board, made up of trade associations, networks and membership organisations from across the retail industry have been working to uncover the most inspirational role models. The independent judging panel will then, have the tough job of choosing the finalists.

Commenting on court & spark’s support of the event, Pauline Wood said: “We’re really looking forward to this year’s everywoman event which is dedicated to recognising the career achievements of women in retailing. Even though at court & spark we’re regularly helping to place women within senior retailing roles, like many sectors, the retail industry continues to suffer from a shortage of women reaching the top levels. So it’s great that everywoman helps to showcase and recognise inspiring women through the Retail Ambassador programme. We’re proud that as an event partner court & spark is able to play our part in supporting the event and promoting the contribution female retailers are making to the industry.”

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Sixty years on from creation, Laura Ashley’s legacy has not only been to create a global iconic retailing brand, but also to launch the careers of many retail executives who are major players within retail today. Now in the Diamond Jubilee year since Laura and Bernard Ashley first produced printed headscarves from their London flat in 1953, I’m joining a host of high profile former Laura Ashley retailers to pay tribute to the impact the business has had for so many working today.

A focus of the 60th anniversary celebrations will be to unveil a commemorative book mapping the careers of a host of former Laura Ashley executives. The Laura Ashley Alumni book will be on display at an exclusive event in London later this year which will bring together former Laura Ashley senior players from around the globe.

With over half of my retail career spent in retail operations at Laura Ashley I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from and work with the best and also meet my court & spark business partner Claire Beasley. Between us we’ve clocked up 30 years working at Laura Ashley and are living proof that the “legacy of Laura” continues to be felt across the UK retail sector long after the floral print has faded.

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It was interesting to read entrepreneur Luke Johnson’s column in June’s Management Today forecasting the death of the recruitment sector due to higher usage of the internet in talent search. If this is what the future holds, it is businesses who will suffer.

Good headhunters use the internet, but they will also spend a lot of time networking, screening contacts and developing relationships with the movers and the shakers in the industry. LinkedIn can help businesses take a DIY approach to recruitment, but at what cost? Failing to access candidates not present online, confidential briefs and lack of screening means an internet based search can lead to wasted time and money. We watch with interest to see whether Luke will find his next Executive hire through LinkedIn, or if he recognises the value of external expertise in ensuring that he can bring the best talent into his organisation.

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A trend we continue to see from retailers is the desire to attract senior candidates who have existing experience of consolidating multi-channel retail activity to provide customers with a single brand experience.

Social media is rapidly changing the way and the speed in which consumers shop, and retailers are changing their strategy to bring e-commerce and digital marketing into the centre of the organisation. Rather than the digital landscape being treated as just one of many channels to market, retailers now realise that what happens within social media can act as a trigger to drive people to purchase, either online, into store or as a brand advocate who tweets, blogs and posts about their retail experience.

The shortage of senior people with digital experience within retail means that new talent is being brought into the market by candidates who previously may have worked within finance, utility or leisure businesses. Long term, an injection of new skilled people is good for the retail sector, but in the short term these highly skilled and in-demand professionals will be in a position to command good salaries.

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