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Boycott of western brands hurts GCC workers, Apparel chief warns

Sima Ganwani Ved: 'The people being hired are GCC, the people running the stores are GCC-based' Supplied
Sima Ganwani Ved: 'The people being hired are GCC, the people running the stores are GCC-based'
  • Company hit by backlash
  • Boycotts follow Gaza war
  • Apparel Group based in UAE

Boycotts of western brands by Gulf consumers in protest against the Gaza conflict only hurts local workers in the region, the founder of the fashion and lifestyle retail conglomerate Apparel Group has warned.

The company, which is based in the UAE and handles more than 80 brands from the US, Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia including Tommy Hilfiger and Jamie’s Italian, has been hit by the backlash against western businesses.

But founder and chairwoman Sima Ganwani Ved said that boycotts will ultimately affect local workers the most.

“As soon as it started, everyone was hit,” Ved said.

Starbucks has been one of the hardest hit by the boycotts. The Kuwait-based Alshaya Group, which holds the franchise for the coffee chain in the Mena region, announced last month that it was making redundancies reported to number 2,000.

“Our hearts went out to their sentiment of not wanting to shop with certain brands and we fully understand that,” Ved said.

However, she said, “At the end of the day, the people being hired are GCC, the people running the stores are GCC-based. You’re actually affecting the livelihood of your own people, because they’re all being hired by these companies.”

In February McDonald’s said it missed its quarterly sales target for the first time in nearly four years.

Americana Restaurants International, which runs more than 2,400 outlets across the region covering international brands including KFC and Pizza Hut, saw revenue fall 15 percent in the final three months of last year compared to the same time the year before, with profit down by nearly half. 

Apparel Group has a presence across the GCC as well as in India, South Africa, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Egypt.

Ved said the group currently operates 610 stores in Saudi Arabia but was looking to increase this to 1,000 by the end of next year.

“We’re open to adding new countries but … nothing is as attractive as our focus this year, which is Saudi Arabia and India,” she said.

Ved will be a guest panelist at this year’s Retail Summit, which is being held on April 23 and 24 at Atlantis The Palm, Dubai.

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