Mind Your Business: Simon Naga, vice president of Al-Futtaim Group for Asia and Fashion, on the future of luxury retail

In Mind Your Business, we speak with business leaders and thinkers who inspire their respective companies and industries. Here, vice president of Al-Futtaim Group for Asia and Fashion, Simon Naga, shares his insights into the evolving landscape of retail

With e-commerce becoming increasingly dominant, how should traditional retail spaces evolve? Simon Naga, vice president of Asia & Fashion at Al-Futtaim Group, shares his insights on the luxury retail landscape, from the enduring charm of in-store shopping to the indispensable force of e-commerce. With more than 20 years of experience shaping major brands such as Boss, Maje, and Sandro across Asia and the Middle East, he reflects on the digital and cultural shifts that have shaped consumer behaviours and expectations.

Simon Naga, vice president of Al-Futtaim Group for Asia and Fashion, on the future of luxury retail. Photo by Al-Futtaim Group

How has the balance tipped between physical stores and online shopping?

While the tangible pleasures of in-store shopping—such as the tactile experience of handling products and trying on apparel—remain irreplaceable, there has been a marked shift towards e-commerce. This shift reflects a growing consumer demand for convenience. High-end brands have recognised their responsibility to provide a seamless shopping experience that spans both the physical and digital realms.

What are some digital initiatives that you have implemented to enhance the shopping experience?

We recently integrated Tabby and Tamara—a financial service offering consumers the flexibility to purchase products online or in-store and settle payments either after 14 days or through monthly instalments—into our UAE websites. This addition underscores our commitment to providing alternative payment methods and flexible payment plans, a concept that has gained considerable traction on a global scale.

In light of the increasing shift to digital platforms, how have consumer behaviours changed?

Today’s consumers expect to navigate seamlessly across various channels and devices, demanding an exceptionally smooth experience. This evolution has elevated expectations, with consumers now demonstrating heightened savvy and demanding superior service, personalised engagement, and diverse offerings.

What strategies have you found most effective in engaging customers both online and offline?

Our digital strategy is intentionally diversified, recognising the importance of activating multiple channels to expand our reach and enhance conversion. Crucially, we are mindful of the necessity to select the appropriate channels and collaborate with key opinion leaders (KOLs) who resonate with our target demographic while honouring our brands’ DNA.

Where do you see the biggest opportunities for growth in the retail sector?

The markets within my portfolio have experienced a significant shift toward digitalisation in recent years, a trend we anticipate will not only persist but accelerate. In response, we are committed to escalating our digital investments, specifically in data analytics tools.

What key lessons have you learned about leadership in the fast-evolving retail sector?

Embracing change, empowering teams, and prioritising customer satisfaction have been paramount. Additionally, leveraging data to inform decisions, fostering adaptability, and investing in talent development have proven crucial.

Al-Futtaim Group