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Toufic Kreidieh: “Maintain a low cash burn rate”

With safety being the main concern for people, promoting cashless transactions is one idea that retail outlets are adopting, as well as social distancing measures. The pandemic-driven boom of online shopping has also accelerated digital transformation for large retailers, who are focused on creating ‘harmonized retail’ today. This idea allows retail chains like us to […]

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With safety being the main concern for people, promoting cashless transactions is one idea that retail outlets are adopting, as well as social distancing measures. The pandemic-driven boom of online shopping has also accelerated digital transformation for large retailers, who are focused on creating ‘harmonized retail’ today. This idea allows retail chains like us to share customer data and journeys from physical and digital channels, so we can refine our collective insights to individually target customers for a more efficient shopping experience. We’re also relying more on data by installing in-store systems to monitor the customer’s journey when shopping and identify their areas of interest. Finally, retailers are also focusing more on heightening and promoting the in-store experience for customers, rather than just visual merchandising.


As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Toufic Kreidieh, Co-Founder and CEO of the Brands For Less Group, with over 20 years of executive experience managing companies. He is a seasoned and successful leader who boasts a proven track record in producing, presenting, and managing the implementation of innovative business solutions. Kreidieh started his career in Ajman Free Zone Authority, where he worked as a Director for three years before moving to Beirut to join Gulf Oil as the General Manager. He then decided to establish the Brands For Less Group with his business partner, Yasser Beydoun, which he now runs as a CEO. Kreidieh holds a B.S. in Business Administration from the American University of Beirut.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

In one of my first visits to the United States of America, I visited TJ Maxx and was fascinated by their business model. I started comparing it with what we have in this part of the world (in the Middle East) and found no similar businesses that cater to this market, and we knew that there was a strong affinity for these designer brands in Lebanon as well. This inspired us, my partner and I, and we decided to establish a startup with a similar business model to cater to Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, and the Middle East as a whole.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

There are many stories that come to mind during our 24 year-long journey with the Brands for Less Group. The whole journey has been extremely interesting and full of challenges. We’ve witnessed rapid growth rate for our company and excitement with every store opening. If I had to share one of the most interesting stories, it would be back when we first started our business in the UAE in 2000. We were building our company from scratch and therefore my business partner and I had to take on delivering and merchandising the products ourselves. I remember one day a very successful entrepreneur saw our efforts and approached us, telling us: “You will become one of the best in the region, mark my words”. I can’t forget that moment when we were both dreamers and hoping our business vision would work and now looking back, how proud we are to have made those words come true.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

When we first started, I remember we used to buy random shipments from the U.S. One time, we received a huge and unexpected quantity of gardening mats. Back then, gardening mats were uncommon in the UAE, as people were not used to maintaining their own gardens, and green spaces were not as important for them as they are today. So we came up with the idea of promoting these gardening mats as knee support mats for people when they were praying. The idea worked and the mats became a best-seller — and people still ask for them today. As for the key lesson we got out of this, we learned to be more careful when buying merchandise. We also learned how to be resourceful and innovative in order to turn situations around, and transform potential problems into rewarding solutions.

Are you currently working on any new, exciting projects? How do you think that might help people?

Along with our expansion plans to neighboring GCC countries and Eastern Europe and creating more job opportunities, we are working on adding a ‘Sustainable Products’ section within our stores to promote eco-friendly merchandise to our customers. We believe that this would contribute to protecting and safeguarding the environment, which will ultimately help people as well.

Which tips would you recommend to your industry peers to help them thrive instead of “burning out”?

My advice is to maintain a low cash burn rate so your company can weather any unprecedented storm. Maximizing the potential of your own people and assets, as well as optimizing processes will help you thrive. We have faced many challenges that we overcame, and I am sure there are other challenges coming. To survive, everyone needs to be as efficient as possible.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful, who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I owe much of what I’ve achieved throughout my journey, both as an individual and for the company, to my business partner and best friend, Yasser Beydoun. Although we have opposite characters, his personality complements mine and we get along very well, always seeing the bigger picture together. We have shared countless stories as children, and I recall every moment he stood by me, whether personally or professionally.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

We have worked on several CSR initiatives, but the one I believe in the most is the right for everyone to get a proper education, regardless if they’re rich or poor. We have been supporting poor children and families in practicing this right by creating our own program that offers to fund their education, which we are sure they will need one day to become as successful as we strive to become, or even more.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share five examples of different ideas that large retail outlets are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?

With safety being the main concern for people, promoting cashless transactions is one idea that retail outlets are adopting, as well as social distancing measures. The pandemic-driven boom of online shopping has also accelerated digital transformation for large retailers, who are focused on creating ‘harmonized retail’ today. This idea allows retail chains like us to share customer data and journeys from physical and digital channels, so we can refine our collective insights to individually target customers for a more efficient shopping experience. We’re also relying more on data by installing in-store systems to monitor the customer’s journey when shopping and identify their areas of interest. Finally, retailers are also focusing more on heightening and promoting the in-store experience for customers, rather than just visual merchandising.

In your opinion, will retail stores or malls continue to exist? How would you articulate the role of physical retail spaces at a time when online commerce platforms like Amazon Prime or Instacart can deliver on the same day or the next?

I believe that the brick-and-mortar model will always exist, as people need to enjoy the shopping experience in person as well. Some industries might be more affected than others, but fashion industry consumers will always need to come to the store and have their own journey there. In our stores, we promote an exciting ‘treasure hunt’ experience where people can look around the racks to check for new arrivals and find their preferred designer brands. This encourages customers to always visit the stores, while still enjoying online shopping through the website.

The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?

These retailer models have been successful because of the unique experience they give to their customers. The store experience can look ‘dull’ for some people but it is completely different for their own customers and target market. As I mentioned previously on the importance of creating an engaging in-store experience, these successful retailers have been able to create that for their customers, which results in an engaged customer base who return and make frequent store visits. Retailers have to foster, nourish and maintain the in-store customer experience if they wish to survive in an increasingly digitized world.

Amazon is going to exert pressure on the entire retail market in the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging, offering prices that are much cheaper than U.S. and European brands. What would you advise retail and e-commerce companies for them to withstand such strong competition?

I would advise retail and e-commerce companies to be flexible in their strategies, as only dynamic retailers will thrive in the coming years. They will need to remain calm while setting strategies that revolve around consumers and evolve with them, based on ongoing consumer behavior monitoring and analysis. They would also need to speed up their digital transformation process in order to meet modern customer’s expectations and adapt to the ‘new normal’.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could start or encourage a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, it would be one that instils hope. In such dire times, hope is what most people need to overcome their distress. In order to think of better days and a better future, you need hope. Each and every one of us needs to become better to experience success on an individual or a professional level, and that can only happen if we have HOPE. It is the key to changing people’s lives.

How can our readers further follow your work? You can follow our company’s work through our Brands for Less website and Instagram channel @brandsforlessuae.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


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