Before Sharaf DG opened a 2,787-square-metre electronics shop last week in Abu Dhabi Mall, its managing director, Yasser Sharaf, could be seen scrutinising the store's displays and the cleanliness of the floors. In an age of specialisation, he explains why he wants the store to be all things to all customers:
You've erected 14 stores in Dubai since 2005. But this new shop is the first in the capital besides one at the airport. What took you so long to start pushing into the capital?
You ask me a difficult question. Dubai, first and foremost, is our hometown. Where anybody starts something, make sure he's solid and then expand. Abu Dhabi, of course, was always in our radar, but to find big space and a good location was challenging. It took time, and as soon as the opportunity came we grabbed it.
What challenges do you foresee with your five-year expansion plan to open additional stores in Abu Dhabi?
I think location. To find the proper location will be challenging here … We have to study locations, study the market around it, study the potential and all of that. So this is what takes time, basically. If we have a perfect location, and everything is ready, it will take three months - four months, maximum - to open. Nevertheless, we found this location, and we're hopefully opening another location very soon.
Given that the regional economy is still recovering, is this really a good time to expand?
The potential is there now. The markets are improving, people are coming in, expansion projects have started to kick off. Things are moving in the right direction.
There are already a number of electronics shops in Abu Dhabi. How is yours different?
We want to be everything to everyone. You cannot say "I just have this niche market". No. Low-end, mid-end, high-end. You should find everything available.
What if you do not deliver on that promise and a consumer can't find what they are looking for?
We have our "brand promise". If you're looking for a specific item, and the item is not there, you fill out a form. If we don't get it within 24 working hours, you get it for free. Since we launched this, we had more than 21,000 forms filled and only 202 people got it for free.
Why are some electronics products not available in the UAE?
We are here just as a retailer. In the local market here, you have to go with an agent. I cannot import directly. That has its own limitations because I'm dependent on what the agent is supplying. For instance, if you see a model which is not available here, it's just because the agent didn't bring it in, and I cannot source it from outside.