The Life: Valencia, a multi-brand shoe shop, has been operating in the UAE for 23 years. It has nine stores in Dubai, but just one in Abu Dhabi. Ali Cheaito, Retail Operations Manager of Valencia explains why the chain has been slow to expand in the capital.
Shoe retailer puts its best foot forward
q Did you notice a downturn in sales during the last financial crisis?
a Yes, everybody felt that. We can't say "no", but if you compare the drop that we had to Europe I believe we're still very healthy.
q Are you back to your pre-2008 sales now?
a Not yet but this year we have had good growth and 2010 was good for us. [This year], I think we are better than 2010.
q Valencia is a homegrown brand. Where was its first retail store located within the UAE?
a We started with one store in Sharjah. It was on Al Wahda Street. In 1995 we moved to Deira City Centre. It was a good step. When we moved to Dubai into the mall we started to go for higher-end brands, not like in Sharjah, where we had mid-range brands.
q You now have 10 stores in the UAE. Do you have plans to open any more?
a [In Dubai] we are in all of the malls. In Abu Dhabi we only have one store, in Marina Mall, so we are planning to invest in Abu Dhabi. We are planning between six to eight shops for Valencia and other brands.
q Why has it taken you so long to expand in the capital?
a We were selling as a wholesaler to people in Abu Dhabi [at first], so we didn't want to affect [that] business. Then the management decided to [start selling directly in its own shops]. I believe by next year we will have a lot of tourists in Abu Dhabi visiting Ferrari World, Yas Island and [Yas Mall]. Plus the population in Abu Dhabi has money to spend.
q Where are you aiming to locate new stores in the capital?
a We have already booked four stores [in Yas Mall]. All the international brands will be there. A Giuseppe Zanotti store will open in Etihad Mall by January and we are looking for one more store in Marina Mall.
q When you buy for the UAE market do you have to keep anything in mind?
a Here we have a lot of nationalities. What we consider is [the style]: the model; the colour; the heel. We do not say this is for Lebanese, or this is for local or this is for English. When you are working with high-end brands, they monitor fashions all over the world. The period of November to February we have a lot of tourists from Europe, so we normally buy a lot of boots. In the summer it is sandals with some closed shoes.