Dubai group Paris Gallery is set to open five stores in Iraq over the next three years through a franchise agreement with Al Handal International Group, the two companies announced during a signing ceremony on Tuesday.
The first store is scheduled to open in Baghdad in 2013, with another two in Erbil and one in Basra to follow by 2015, Randa Al Akkad, the head of franchise at Paris Gallery, said.
In addition, the company will also open its store in Baku, Azerbaijan next year, which will be Paris Gallery’s biggest store yet, the company said. Expanding into the pan-Arab market is a key growth strategy for Paris Gallery going forward, according to the company’s chief executive.
“When we open international markets outside the GCC, that’s part of our growth strategy. However, inside the GCC, we have continued expansion in brands and variety,” Mohammad Al Fahim, chief executive of Paris Gallery, told Gulf News.
Asked why the company chose to enter Iraq specifically, Al Fahim told reporters: “The Iraq market has always been one of the biggest markets in GCC and with the most potential,” he said, adding that the last few years were not ideal for foreign companies to establish there.
Commenting on Iraq’s retail market, Al Handal Group’s chief executive Mohammad Al Handal said that a 10 per cent annual rise in salaries has meant that consumers have more income to spend on luxury products.
With fake products, especially perfumes and cosmetics, flooding the Iraq market, it will be an opportunity for Paris Gallery to enter with original brands, he added.
Al Handal Group is also negotiating other tie-ups with UAE companies in the fashion, manufacturing and food and beverage industries, he said, but would not disclose the details until the deals were signed.
Established in 1975, Al Handal Group is a Baghdad-based company with activities in construction, development, media, security and banking.