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‘2020 was difficult, but we ended the year with a smile’

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Tawhid Abdullah, the chairman of Dubai Gold and Jewellery Group and Jawahara Jewellery in UAE, speaks to The Retail Jeweller World about the year that has been, and what the future holds

Talk to us about the year you have had in terms of sales

We closed the year on a positive note, and with a turnaround none of us thought was possible when the pandemic hit us. We have recovered the losses from March to May and started looking at positive changes. The supplier and client are one team at the end of the day. We have been selling quite well and this December has been one of the best ones for us. Gold prices have gone up and there is a lot of credibilityin our sector now. IIJS has shown the world that our industry should not be taken lightly. We can work from a distance through technology. We have sustained ourselves and replenished our stock well despite the pandemic.

What are the buying trends that you noticed this year?

People have started buying gold bars as investments. These have a small profit range but are high on credibility. As there has been a dearth of parties when it comes to weddings now, a fair share of the budget has come into jewellery. That has increased our seasonal profits. More weddings have taken place in the latter half of the year. Dubai has also opened for tourists in November and December, so the numbers have been great. Our contract with Israel in bilateral trade also got us some fillip in sales.This gives us a lot of comfort.Young people are buying jewellery for themselves now and as gifts too. The new designs and trends that came up as a result of the immense brainstorming during the lockdown have upped their buying spree. Small pendants, charmsand bracelets have taken the market by storm.

Looking back at the year and the international relations that the industry in Dubai has, how do you think it has been?

We have been heavily affected this year, but we could stand strong because our industry adapted well to digitization. We have sold our products over WhatsApp and email. We only faced problems in countries where goods could not be shipped. Although we have seen a drop of 30-35%, fresh orders will come in, and the number will improve.I have personally been very biased about the Indian community. This movement of Indian manufacturers, designers and wholesalers has challenged the world. We have seen remarkable business from them when compared to countries like China, Indonesia and Malaysia. The trust link has been intact between us. This was the cherry on the cake. The suppliers stood by us with an umbrella on a rainy day. This has fostered a lovely marriage which we hope will continue.

How has the year affected retail in the Middle East?

We, on the jewellery hub, have got a credible standing with big, small and medium traders. Our industry has been increasing sales. In summer, the business usually goes down. This year, we have seen a lot of local spending because there was no travelling. Gold priceshave gone up, so there is a lot of comfort and trust in the yellow metal now. We only need to improve on the tourism department, now that things are slowly improving. The Indian consumer is very important. They represent more than 30-40% of the trade.

How do you think the UAE retail segment will do?

There are two different schools in retail in the UAE.  The first one depends on the local market, which has done numbers like always. The second one is tourism-dependent, and has not seen any extraordinary sales this year, but when compared to the cash flow, existing companies and the continuation of the business, it was a good opportunity as people liquidated old stock. Most of us remodelled our businesses, people consolidated their stores. A good number of companies started digital retail and that improved our business. All being said and done, we have seen our relations improving with suppliers and a lot of trust buying happened. Standing by each other in the tough period created an emotional bonding as well.

Do you think there is scope for the wholesale sector going digital in the B2B segment?

We are still at the initial stages of digitization when it comes to wholesale. The shutdown of airports put a dent in their business. With Asian and Saudi markets opening up, things will get better. Today, the consumer has big expectations. Asians happen to be the most conscious when it comes to price, model, after-sales and quality. Indians are big spenders and connoisseurs. They buy with an investment purpose in mind. Wholesalers and designers will bring them the latest designs and technology.

What is your message for the future?

Our industry is ending the year with a big smile. We have taken businesses from fashion and travel and are in a good position for thousands of years to come. The next generation should trust that we are not lazy and can adapt to technology.  We did not feel isolated this year. The webinars and knowledge seminars kept us connected and informed.

Courtesy: Retail Jeweller World News Service

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