David Crickmore is the chief executive of Amouage, a luxury fragrance maker based in Oman but expanding in the Emirates. He discusses turning an Arab brand into an international one that produces 355,000 bottles of perfume each year.
How was the company different before you joined as chief executive in 2006?
It was founded about 28 years ago to express some of the traditions of Oman and the Arab world. For years it was really restricted to distribution in the Gulf. What we did when we came in was to look at it from a more international perspective.
In what way?
I blind-tested the fragrances before I took up the job and found they weren't particularly Arabic in nature. It was just the way they were promoted and packaged, which restricted them to the Arabic market.
Describe leading the company through its global expansion process.
After we assessed the business for six to eight months, and came up with new ideas, we repackaged, rebottled and re-merchandised. [We] also put new fragrances in, developed new product categories like bath and body, and leather goods, and that meant we could take the brand to a more international market.
But how do you compete with local perfumes aimed at Arabs?
Well, I'm not sure I'd want to go down that route. To me, Dubai is an international city and there are many nationalities pouring in and out. I don't want to capitalise specifically on Arabic product marketing. I think it would alienate other nationalities who may not want to relate. I believe our Arab customers relate to Amouage because it's an international brand - not because it's an Arab brand.
Amouage sells perfume in more than 40 countries, and after opening a shop in Dubai last year you launched another in London. But what was your strategy when you first entered the UAE?
Well, for many years, Amouage sold through an exclusive deal through Paris Gallery. That still exists … [but] we built our own "shop in a shop" corner. Recently, we decided also to develop our own stand-alone retail stores in the UAE because we believe brand awareness is raised and that benefits the wholesale business as well. The strategy is not just a UAE strategy; it's an international strategy in that it's our plan to have stand-alone sites in key cities around the world.
You're about to open a second shop in Dubai, plus you're looking for additional sites there and in the capital. What's inspired the expansion push beyond deals such as the one with Paris Gallery?
Well, we're a luxury niche brand, and any worth its salt has its own stand-alone shops. People such as Louis Vuitton sell only to their own shops, but we don't want to - and can't - go down that route at this stage. But we believe there's room for both elements of trade.
What's the hardest part about expanding in retail here?
Finding the right space for a luxury brand. Of course, one is limited in the UAE to certain malls because … one needs to find the right space with the right brand adjacencies so the consumer is drawn to the market.