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Five Minutes With.. Salwa Hachem Mahfouz, Co-CEO, Fashion & Beyond

Five Minutes With.. Salwa Hachem Mahfouz, Co-CEO, Fashion & Beyond

Salwa Hachem Mahfouz, Co-CEO of Fashion & Beyond, discusses her plans for bringing Brazilian swimwear brand Liquido to the region in the build up to the Dubai launch later this month.

How do you go about choosing which brands to bring to the UAE?

The UAE is still an emerging country with millions moving in every year. The economy has been growing consistently despite “the small bump in the road” in 2009. What makes the UAE more exciting is the number of expats, with more than 200 nationalities living in the country, hence opening the doors to import a wide range of products/brands from around the globe. The Brazilian community has been growing year after year. Today there are over 3,000 Brazilians in the UAE. You notice many Brazilian brands entering the country, so why not bring one of the most popular swimwear brands in Brazil to the UAE?

Why have you decided to bring Liquido to the country now?

I fell in love with Liquido the minute I set eyes on it. It was the summer of 2013, when I went to visit Brazil. Its wide range of bikinis and sportswear caught my attention. I thought to myself “I live in a country where its sunny almost all year long so what better option than to open a great quality Brazilian swimwear store”. In addition to swimwear Liquido provides casual wear, sportswear, stylish bags, hats and flip-flops.

What wider plans do you have for the brand in the region?

I believe Liquido will become popular in the UAE very quickly. Liquido in Brazil has 94 stores and is spreading around the world with virtual stores in Australia and the United States. My plans are to expand first across the Emirates and than move across the region into neighboring countries like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and so on. Liquido believes that it’s their duty to ensure customer satisfaction and make every purchase a unique experience and I will ensure I bring the same experience here to the region.

What do you think will differentiate the chain from the retail offerings already available?

Brazilian wear is still very small in the UAE. I believe the quality; patterns style and cuts that Liquido provides will give me a competitive advantage over the others.

What are you expectations for the retail sector this year?

With Expo 2020 and many other global events taking place in the UAE the economy will only go up from here and so will the retail sector. The UAE has an expansion plan with “out of this world” projects, and its no tax policy will encourage more and more expats to move to the UAE benefitting all sectors.

What are some of the key challenges retailers are facing in 2015?

There are several challenges faced by retailers that will continue throughout 2015. Competition I believe is the biggest challenge, the UAE government greatly supports small and medium business making it easy for competition to enter. Another major issue is the high cost of living. High cost of rent, transportation and food directly affect business margins.

How are high commercial rents impacting you business?

While this will be the first store I open in Dubai. I do think the price is a bit high and this affects my margins and impacts my retail-selling price.

What is your leadership style?

My leadership style is authoritarian. I like to be on top of everything and usually set strict rules to my employees. I prefer to maintain a professional relationship with people I work with.

What makes the perfect employee?

Perfection lies on the eyes of the beholder. What is perfect for me might not be perfect for others and vice versa. My perfect employee is one that is passionate about what he/she is doing and is able to transfer this passion forward to our customers.

In my spare time I like to…

I like to work out. I try my best to carry on with a healthy life style. Yoga has helped a lot so that’s one thing I am starting to love. I love traveling. I like reading, watching movies and going to the beach. I also love being charitable; it just fills me up to help people in need, especially disabled kids.

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