DUBAI — Tryano, a new specialty department store created by Dubai’s Chalhoub Group, opened its doors in Abu Dhabi this week, heralding a shift in the style of large-format retailing in the region.
The megastore is focused solely on three product categories: beauty, handbags and children’s, boasting more than 275 international and local brands spread more than 215,000 square feet.
“We have taken the choice to go really in-depth into these categories with our offering,” said Patrick Chalhoub, co-chief executive officer of Chalhoub Group. “We did studies to see what would really engage our customers and decided to take those categories and do them in a much stronger way than you will find anywhere else in the world.”
In a region where local women predominantly dress in traditional black robes, or abayas, the spend on handbags, beauty and children’s wear is significantly higher.
The focus on those categories signals a shift among retailers toward catering more to the needs of consumers based in the Gulf and away from the Chinese and Russian tourists that have played a large role in driving the luxury market for many years in the UAE.
“The customer that we want to capture as our primary, core customer for Tryano is Abu Dhabi and Gulf-based — those that are living all year round here,” Chalhoub said. That includes tourists from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain.
“More than half the spending of Gulf-based luxury customers is happening outside their home market,” Chalhoub said. “Part of that might be that they haven’t had enough depth of offering here, so we need to capture those customers. The market in the Emirates is evolving very fast and we need to change the type of offer that we are giving to the customer. They want more than just planting the flag of other brands here.”
One of the biggest franchisers of luxury brands in the Middle East, the Chalhoub Group has a successful track record in launching its own concepts. Level Shoe District, touted as the world’s largest department store dedicated to shoes, opened three years ago in Dubai and since has won numerous accolades.
“As a group we have had the experience of dealing with brands for 60 years. And every time we have looked to build a department store, we have felt that sometimes an outside department store partner might not be as customer centric to this region,” Chalhoub said. “We felt we could produce a department store conceived by people who really understand the market and very focused on the customer of the Middle East. We build on our relationships with the brands that we have, but put it together in a better way that goes with this environment.”
That environment entails much more than just product offering. “The customer today is not looking to just shop. They are looking for an overall experience, an entertaining place,” he said. “Shopping in this part of the world is really part of a leisure offering.”
To wit: Tryano includes a full-service restaurant, an outpost of the Parisian pastry purveyor La Pâtisserie des Rêves, salons for men and women, a hair lab and play area for children complete with a carousel, tree houses and slides.
The design of the store by London-based agency HMKM centers on a “garden of imagination” theme blending nature fantasy and technology.
“The space is very human centric with a lot of natural elements,” said Linton Crockford-Moore, creative director at Chalhoub Group. “We looked at this location in the desert as a kind of retail oasis. From that we created a garden theme where customers can come and have a journey.”
Each section of the store takes its cues from different seasons. Beauty has been designed around winter with crystalized elements on the walls. Handbags get a springtime setting with colorful mosaic tiles, while the children’s area boasts a summer theme. The entrance to the store features a multilevel interactive trellis that blossoms with virtual foliage over the course of each day. Even the scent of the store has been custom created to evoke a relaxed garden feel.
Tryano’s general manager Hamdi Kulahcioglu said Tryano hopes to draw customers into the store with an unconventional layout. Moving away from a traditional department store model, where beauty is front-and-center, Tryano is split evenly between handbags and beauty from the front to the back on the ground level.
Tom Ford’s beauty concession welcomes visitors along with others for Chanel, Dior, Giorgio Armani, Kiehl’s, La Prairie, Gucci, YSL, Lancôme and more.
The two sections are divided by a long avenue that will feature brands like MAC and Make Up For Ever. In the handbag concessions, there are brand boutiques for Christian Louboutin, Carolina Herrera, Fendi, Kate Spade and more.
“By creating our own concept it really allows us the flexibility to give customers something very unique,” Kulahcioglu said. “For instance, it’s not just the large number of brands we have available here, but also the bespoke services. A customer can buy a bag here then get it monogrammed from our in-house service. We have the biggest international names like Christian Louboutin side by side with local brands like Sofia Asfour. Both are getting great response from customers. It’s not just about the product, it’s about the whole experience and environment and the combination of products and services together.”
Tryano is the anchor tenant in Abu Dhabi’s Yas Mall which is part of the Yas Island development, a leisure destination on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, a 45-minute drive from Dubai. It’s also home to the Formula One racetrack as well as Ferrari World, billed as the world’s largest indoor theme park that is linked to the mall.
The master developer of the location, Abu Dhabi-based Aldar, worked very closely with Chalhoub Group to create the anchor to the mall.
“When we started to develop Yas Mall the first thing we thought about was how we can change the experience of shopping in the UAE. This was really a partnership with Chalhoub Group,” said Mohamed Al Mubarak, the company’s chief executive officer.
With Abu Dhabi’s Formula One race coming up next weekend, which attracts more than 60,000 visitors, Tryano’s opening is well timed for a large influx of shoppers. The challenge will be in sustaining it, as the UAE retail market has been more prominent in Dubai, which has traditionally extracted more tourists.
Chalhoub is confident. “There is a gap in Abu Dhabi today with very few offerings of real department stores or specialty stores,” he said. “We have a lot of customers from Abu Dhabi coming to Dubai that are not serviced enough.”