x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

The British cosmetics retailer Lush plans to double the number of stores in the UAE.

Susie Pringle and her daughter Genevieve shop at a Lush store in Abu Dhabi. The company sees a huge potential in the UAE. Sammy Dallal / The National
Susie Pringle and her daughter Genevieve shop at a Lush store in Abu Dhabi. The company sees a huge potential in the UAE. Sammy Dallal / The National

Lush, a British cosmetics company, is expanding in the Middle East, having opened a women-only staffed store in Saudi Arabia, and it plans to double its footprint in the UAE.

The company has 102 stores in the UK and more than 900 abroad, including 17 in the Middle East, its fastest-growing region globally for two years running.

It opened a female-staffed store in Jeddah in March with the support of the government, despite not technically being allowed to employ women by law.

“We cannot have women because our shop is not [related] to make-up and the law only applies to make-up, but we decided that we wanted to have 100 per cent Saudi lady staff,” said Ziad Kaddoura, a partner of Lush Mena.

Lush decided to go ahead with the initiative after coming under criticism for campaigning against shale oil production in Canada.

“Part of the backlash was that we received quite a lot of criticism for some of the countries we traded in and one of them was for us having shops in Saudi [Arabia],” said Karl Bygrave, a director at Lush.

“For us the opportunity to have shops in Saudi was great because there is this lovely tradition with cosmetics and fragrance and it was somewhere we wanted to be. We wanted to be able to [give women the opportunity to work] rather than not have shops in that country and then be critical of the way things work.”

The gamble paid off. The Jeddah store made more sales in its first month than other male-staffed stores in Riyadh, which had been operating for years. It now hopes to open women-only staffed stores wherever it is able to in the kingdom.

In the UAE, where Lush has recorded a 100 per cent increase in sales in the past year, the brand currently has seven stores and plans to double the footprint in the next three to five years.

“There’s clearly a lot of potential because if we look at, say, Dubai Mall, that’s a top 10 store worldwide for us,” said Mr Bygrave.

gduncan@thenational.ae