CORON­AVIRUS: COL­LAB­O­RA­TION BE­TWEEN LAND­LORDS, RE­TAIL­ERS KEY TO PRE­SERV­ING THE GULF RE­GION’S RE­TAIL SEC­TOR

DEAL­ING WITH FLUC­TU­A­TIONS IN CON­SUMER FOOT­FALL, LABOUR RE­QUIRE­MENTS, AND RESCHED­ULED BRAND CAM­PAIGNS MUST BE DONE TO­GETHER, WRITES MO­HAM­MAD A. BAKER, CEO OF GULF MAR­KET­ING GROUP

CEO Middle East - - BUSI­NESS -

ACROSS THE GULF RE­GION AND AROUND THE WORLD, THE RE­TAIL SEC­TOR — LIKE

many oth­ers – is fac­ing an un­prece­dented sit­u­a­tion as we con­front the spread of the Covid-19 pan­demic.

Pub­lic health must re­main at the top of our pri­or­i­ties. This in­cludes a com­mit­ment to pro­tect­ing the health and safety of em­ploy­ees, part­ners, and cus­tomers. To this end, all of us should be closely fol­low­ing the lat­est guide­lines is­sued by re­gional and in­ter­na­tional health au­thor­i­ties, work­ing with part­ners across the re­tail value chain.

As a mem­ber of the Gulf ’s re­tail sec­tor, we also have a com­mit­ment to sup­port­ing its long-term vi­tal­ity. Again, we are in a very dy­namic sit­u­a­tion. Each day there are changes that we must adapt to, and new is­sues we must try to re­solve.

What is cer­tain, how­ever, is the crit­i­cal need for cross-in­dus­try col­lab­o­ra­tion.

This col­lab­o­ra­tion is needed to pro­tect pub­lic health – first and fore­most - and also to sup­port lo­cal re­tail­ers as they im­ple­ment their con­ti­nu­ity plans. For decades, the re­tail sec­tor has been a bedrock of this re­gion’s econ­omy. I have no doubt that it will con­tinue to be as long as we nav­i­gate this new re­al­ity to­gether.

Gov­ern­ment au­thor­i­ties have been very sup­port­ive to date in en­cour­ag­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion. In the UAE, for in­stance, se­nior of­fi­cials from Dubai Tourism have worked in co­or­di­na­tion with the Depart­ment of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment in Dubai, and Dubai Cham­ber of Com­merce to host dis­cus­sions with lead­ing re­tail­ers to re­view mar­ket is­sues and con­sider fu­ture ac­tions. This is now hap­pen­ing reg­u­larly in Dubai.

Un­der­pin­ning that col­lab­o­ra­tion within the pri­vate sec­tor must be a spirit of un­der­stand­ing and flex­i­bil­ity. Land­lords and re­tail­ers alike are fac­ing ex­cep­tional chal­lenges. Deal­ing with fluc­tu­a­tions in con­sumer foot­fall, labour re­quire­ments, and resched­uled brand cam­paigns must be done to­gether, with a shared sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity and agility.

Many re­tail­ers, for ex­am­ple, have signed an­nual or long-term rental agree­ments with land­lords based on ex­pected foot­fall. Of course, these land­lords are no longer able to guar­an­tee the same level of foot­fall that they may have an­tic­i­pated even a month ago. That re­al­ity alone should be bring­ing re­tail­ers and land­lords to­gether to re­view ten­ancy con­tracts and de­cide what is a fair and ac­cept­able way for­ward.

The re­cent an­nounce­ment from Al Fut­taim Group to set up an AED100m fund for re­tail­ers to cover rent re­lief is a great ex­am­ple of how this col­lab­o­ra­tion is now hap­pen­ing. Sim­i­lar ac­tions will hope­fully be con­sid­ered by other lead­ers through­out the re­tail value chain. Ul­ti­mately, I re­main op­ti­mistic that we will pre­serve the re­gion’s re­tail sec­tor over the long-term. No one knows how long this health pan­demic will last, but through close col­lab­o­ra­tion, we can bet­ter safe­guard pub­lic health as well as the fu­ture of the in­dus­try.

“THROUGH CLOSE COL­LAB­O­RA­TION, WE CAN BET­TER SAFE­GUARD PUB­LIC HEALTH AS WELL AS THE FU­TURE OF THE IN­DUS­TRY”

Re­tail ex­pert Mo­ham­mad A. Baker is deputy chair­man and CEO of Gulf Mar­ket­ing Group

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