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Widget's chairman talks about his time in Dubai

Mark Needham: There’s no going back to the rainy UK once you’ve seen Dubai

Widget UK’s chairman Mark Needham talks about the business opportunities opening up in the Middle East…

Well it’s been quite a rainy year so far. This climate has led many people to dream about chucking it in and starting again somewhere where it does not rain so much, and those who have done this in the past few years have tended to move to Dubai.

When I attend Distree Middle East, I met a number of entrepreneurs who had left the rain of the UK behind to make it in a city which has quadrupled in size and doubled in population in the last ten years.

The electronics retailing sector in Dubai, and the rest of the UAE, is already served by four or five competing chains, mostly running stores of 3,000 – 10,000 sq ft in the malls of Dubai and its neighbours, but new opportunities have sprung up for distribution companies to fill the gaps around the existing players.

Deep Bhogal worked for Interactive Ideas in Enfield, when he and two colleagues came up with the idea of moving to the Gulf and knocking on enough doors to build a business selling software. Today their concessions in Dubai Duty Free are thriving and they are looking to expand into the Singapore Duty Free market later this year.

Jonathan Gadalla left Dundee 12 years ago to distribute memory in the cut-throat Dubai market. When he diversified into consumer goods he checked that the public liked the products he was selling the hard way – by spending the first months working the floor at Virgin Mega Store branches in the Emirates each weekend. His business, GME Distribution, was an exhibitor at Distree seeking more retailers across the region.

Vendors, in particular, seeing zero growth in Europe at the moment, are opening offices and appointing representatives across the region. Warren Hudson is sales director for Native Union, the manufacturer of the multicoloured phone handsets which appear to be the means by which celebrities now use their iPhones. His company took space at Distree and was delighted with the outcome.

“My visits to the Dubai mall and the Emirates mall were a real eye-opener. The quality of staff and the merchandising standards were just a couple of things that were impressive. To any European-based retailer who has not had the pleasure of a trip to Dubai, I’d recommend it as soon as possible,” said Hudson.

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