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"We opened one store in Aleppo, but the process started before the unfortunate events in Syria," says Mohammed Al Fahim, Paris Gallery's chief executive. Jochen Eckel for The National
'We opened one store in Aleppo, but the process started before the unfortunate events in Syria,' says Mohammed Al Fahim, Paris Gallery's chief executive. Jochen Eckel for The National

Paris Gallery revises its growth plan over unrest

Paris Gallery, the Dubai-based retailer, has scrapped plans to expand in Syria, Egypt and Lebanon, following widespread political unrest.

Paris Gallery, a luxury retailer based in Dubai, has scrapped plans to expand in Syria, Egypt and Lebanon, following the unrest in parts of the Middle East.

The perfumes and cosmetics retailer will instead invest in economies it deems to be more stable, such as Iraq, Turkey, Azerbaijan and India.

"We opened one store in Aleppo, but the process started before the unfortunate events in Syria," said Mohammed Al Fahim, the retailer's chief executive. "We were in the process of opening in Egypt, Lebanon and we had planned to open a few more shops in Syria but this is all on hold."

Originally aiming to open 25 stores in the next three years, Mr Al Fahim said the company was now studying other markets.

"We are refocusing on Iraq, Turkey, Azerbaijan and India and maybe Iran," he said. "If we had planned to open three or four shops in Syria, we might now do this in Iraq instead.

"We will expand in another area which is more stable compared to an area that has been through instability."

Paris Gallery has 40 outlets and a distribution arm and is expanding overseas through franchise agreements and partnerships.

Other Dubai retailers and developers are continuing with expansion plans around the region, despite political and civil unrest in some countries.

Majid Al Futtaim, the operator of Carrefour and five malls in the UAE, plans to open a US$1 billion (Dh3.67bn) mall and hotels project in Damascus and a number of retail projects in both Cairo and Bahrain.

Al Futtaim Group, which owns Dubai Festival City, plans to open a similar concept in Cairo.

Paris Gallery ultimately plans to open more than 50 stores across the Middle East in the next 10 years due to the economic potential of the region and its populous cities.

But it is a long-term view.

"Some of the countries are not ready and some of them are at early stages for stores," said Mr Al Fahim.

"That's the whole ambition, we know the potential is there, what we don't know is how long it takes to stabilise and to build those economies experiencing unrest."

Having been considering an initial public offering since 2008, Mr Al Fahim said it was still a priority for the company and it would consider early next year for a listing if global market conditions improved sufficiently.

He said this year was shaping up to be a record for the company in terms of sales.

"So far so good," he said. "We are growing more than 10 per cent and we are expanding in the UAE, in Al Ain and we have a plan to open in Fujairah."

rjones@thenational.ae

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