It is time to stock up on Beluga caviar, Hebridean gravlax and pruneaux d’agen – Fortnum & Mason is coming to Dubai.
The British luxury grocer and retailer – which counts Prussian princesses, earls and a smattering of monarchs among its clientele – will open a three-storey outlet near Burj Khalifa in February.
“Dubai is the second most important retail centre in the world after London,” Fortnum’s chief executive Ewan Venters told British newspaper The Sunday Times yesterday. “It makes obvious sense.”
“This is a momentous event in the history of Fortnum’s. When the chance came along to secure such a fabulous site in such an important destination, it was just too good to resist.”
The shop will house a dining salon, where English afternoon tea will be served, and an ice-cream parlour, which will offer that most quintessentially British of desserts: the Knickerbocker Glory, an ice cream sundae that is served in a large tall glass.
Its ground floor will stock items including tea, biscuits, jam, sweetmeats and chocolates.
The Dubai shop is Fortnum & Mason’s third store, and its first outside Britain.
The outlet will be operated in conjunction with Al Khayyat Investments (AKI), which operates the Middle Eastern franchises of a number of brands in several industries.
Fortnum & Mason would be perfectly suited to Dubai, said David Macadam, the chief executive and vice chairman of the Middle East Council of Shopping Centres. “[Dubai is] an amazing tourist destination, and local people are keen shoppers who recognise important brands,” he said.
“Low tax rates help, but great infrastructure is the most helpful.
“Everything for tourists is so well organised – from flights to customs to taxis to multi-lane roads to parking. You don’t find that in many other locations.”
As an example, Mr Macadam cited the Louis Vuitton store in The Dubai Mall, which “trades among the highest in the world in terms of sales density and success”.
Mr Venters said the mix of Fortnum’s traditions “and the vibrancy of Dubai will be a powerful combination”.
Mr Venters was appointed the chief executive of Fortnum & Mason in August last year.
The company opened its second store in Britain in November last year, having previously operated a single outlet for the preceding 307 years.
Founded in the exclusive London neighbourhood of Piccadilly by a footman to Queen Anne in 1707, Fortnum’s has long touted its wares to the scions of British aristocracy.
In 1863, Fortnum & Mason was appointed grocer to the Prince of Wales, the title traditionally held by male heirs to the British throne.
When a group of British explorers set out to climb Everest in 1922, Fortnum’s supplied the intrepid adventurers with 60 cans of quail in foie gras and 48 bottles of champagne.
They did not make it to the summit.
Fortnum & Mason is famed for its decadent hampers, branded with the firm’s “F&M’” imprint. Its Imperial Hamper, which retails for £5,000 (Dh30,000), contains a family-sized quantity of “aged balsamic vinegar, white truffle oil … caviar, foie gras with truffles, Florentines, and rare and special Panama Esmeralda coffee”.
These hampers are familiar sights at Royal Ascot, and the Royal Henley Regatta – events central to the social calendars of British aristocrats.
Jonathan Knight, the chief executive of AKI’s retail division, said: “Fortnum & Mason is recognised worldwide for offering luxury products and services. And we are thrilled that these will now be available to the residents of Dubai and the UAE, and to the millions of visitors to the area. We look forward to a strong and enduring relationship with Fortnum & Mason.”
With more than 50,000 millionaires and 17 billionaires in the UAE, according to recent reports, Fortnum & Mason can expect ample demand for its extravagant hampers.