Dubai: For Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, the retailer of watches (Rolex and IWC among the many it represents) and jewellery lines, setting its sights on mid-priced fashion accessories and gadgets is paying off. So much so, it is now connecting with the 18-35 year age group, whereas its shoppers have traditionally been placed in a slightly older bracket.
This is where the ‘1915’ store concept that the retailer launched last year is playing its part. “It’s as removed from a traditional Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons store as can be… the emphasis at 1915 is very much on the young, fashion-forward shopper and the merchandise and ambience are done with them in mind,” said Mohammad A.M. Seddiqi, vice-president for sales and retail, who is of the third-generation within the family-owned business.
In recent months, the network expansion has been very much centred on 1915 to now total eight outlets in the UAE, with three apiece in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The concept has come on well enough for the retailer to “look at franchise possibilities in new markets,” Seddiqi said. “This is where the big expansion possibilities lie.
“With the watch brands that Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons has historically represented, we have covered all possible opportunities locally and more keep opening up. But going with such labels into markets outside of the UAE where the brands already have other distribution arrangements would mean stepping on others’ toes and that’s something we don’t want to do.
“But with 1915 and the brands that it represents, we have the option to go wide, and franchising is an ideal option.”
So, what does 1915 offer? With all the talk on wearable technology these days, the retailer has the rights for Burg, a Dutch brand that blurs the lines between a mobile phone and a watch, with models priced in the Dh1,000-plus range. The 1915 merchandise also extends to bespoke iPhone covers and fashion accessories in many forms. “We will continue topping up what can be offered at 1915; there are always new gadgets that can emerge and connect with the young shopper,” Seddiqi said.
“One cannot think of stepping out of the home without your mobile gadgets; soon many could start thinking that carrying two phones around is not practical — then why not have a watch that features a SIM card and doubles as a mobile?”
When the 1915 operations reach a certain scale, it could be hived off as a standalone business unit. As to whether other new concepts are being considered, Seddiqi said: “A jewellery chain for the price-sensitive shopper could be a natural extension to what we have now and could come with a new identity. But I don’t think we would move into apparel as it’s not something we have a background in.”