x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Luxury starts to make its mark in Iraq

Paris Gallery is set to become one of the first international retailers to open stores in formerly war-torn areas of Iraq.

Paris Gallery will open five franchise stores over the next three years in cities including Baghdad and Basra. Above, the MaxiMall in Baghdad, Iraq. Jahi Chikwendiu / The Washington Post via Getty Images
Paris Gallery will open five franchise stores over the next three years in cities including Baghdad and Basra. Above, the MaxiMall in Baghdad, Iraq. Jahi Chikwendiu / The Washington Post via Getty Images

Paris Gallery is set to become one of the first international retailers to open stores in formerly war-torn areas of Iraq.

The luxury perfume and cosmetics company, based in Dubai, has partnered with Al Handal International Group to open five franchise stores over the next three years in cities including Baghdad and Basra.

Mohammed Al Fahim, the Paris Gallery Group chief executive, said conditions were not previously favourable to open in the country, but the time is now right.

"Iraq is one of the biggest markets in the [region] and [presents] the most opportunity," he said yesterday.

Previously, international retailers have shied away from areas such as Baghdad in favour of Erbil in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan, which has attracted the likes of the French supermarket Carrefour and the Spanish fashion chain Mango.

Aside from better security, part of the reason Erbil has been successful in attracting international retailers is because it is home to several malls, according to Ousama Alani, a consultant for Iraqi Islamic Bank.

"We didn't have that shopping experience [in Iraq] of putting everything in one place so having malls of course gives [Erbil] an advantage," he said. However the rest of the country is now catching up, with a number of shopping centres now under construction across Iraq, including in Najaf and Basra.

In the capital, which has traditionally featured mini-shopping centres, a couple of large projects are under way, including Baghdad Mall.

The US$100 million (Dh367.2m) project, which will include a shopping centre, five-star hotel, medical centre, gym and a giant covered car park, aims to attract international retailers such as Carrefour.

"Living standards and spending [power] in Iraq are quite high now," said Falah Al Sayegh, the project manager for Baghdad Mall.

"Security is improving by the day. Everybody has noticed. They are dining out. They are going to cafes."

Mohammed Al Handal, the chief executive of Al Handal, agreed security was better this year than last.

He said he hoped Paris Gallery would be the first of many international retailers to open in Iraq.

"We hope … other companies in this sector [will follow us into] the Iraqi market," he added.

Two of the Paris Gallery stores will be in Baghdad, two in Erbil and one in Basra. Construction is expected to start next year.

gduncan@thenational.ae