In 1955, husband and wife Michel and Widad Chalhoub opened a Christofle boutique in Syria’s capital, aiming to bring French fashion to the region.
The boutique was opened by the Chalhoubs by becoming the main franchiser for Christofle in Syria.
Their first son, Anthony, was born the same year.
Having bought the licensing rights to French luxury brands Christofle, Baccarat and Jean Patou, the husband-and-wife team started their own company, called the Chalhoub Group.
Its primary goal: to be a distributor of luxury brands in the Middle East.
In 1958, their second son, Patrick, was born.
How did this small Syrian boutique reach such great heights?
In 1965, Michel and Widad relocated to Lebanon, along with their children Anthony and Patrick. Political and economic instability in Syria had made it impossible for the family to stay.
While in Lebanon they opened a subsidiary company in Kuwait with the same name.
When civil war broke out in Lebanon in 1975, all operations moved to Kuwait. Here, Chalhoub opened a number of luxury lifestyle stores, including lifestyle brand Tanagra in 1980. Tanagra, which sells branded home and kitchen ware, has ten stores across the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait.
In 1983, the Chalhoub Group partnered with Louis Vuitton to open the first Louis Vuitton store in the Middle East.
Launching its own brands
The Chalhoub Group launched another brand in 1989, called Wojooh, a beauty store selling fragrance, skincare, bath and body, makeup and haircare. The company later rebranded to call itself Faces.
Faces is present in 85 stores in the UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar, Jordan, Bahrain and Oman.
In 1990, with Iraq invading Kuwait, the company relocated its headquarters to Dubai, where it has remained since.
It is in Dubai where the company flourished, forging partnerships with companies such as Dior Couture, Sephora, Fendi, Puig, Celine, Givenchy, Louboutin and Havas, to become their main franchiser.
Expansion in the 2000s
In 2001, Patrick and his brother Anthony were appointed co-chief executive officers, with Patrick overseeing operations at headquarters in Dubai.
Between 2001 and 2006, the company entered into franchise agreements with Fendi, Sephora, Christian Dior Couture and Parfums.
In 2007, the company opened Chalhoub University. Its Retail Academy, which includes courses on sales and marketing, offers courses that are accredited by Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority.
The Chalhoub Group has also developed a professorship in luxury brand management with the American University of Sharjah.
In the mid-2000s, the company went on an expansion spree. In 2008, it announced it had opened more than 90 shops in the region, which included brands such as Michael Kors, Carolina Herrera, Lacoste and Tory Burch, among others.
In 2010, Chalhoub Group became a franchiser for brands such as French footwear designer brand Christian Louboutin and watch company Chaumet.
In 2012, the company launched Level Shoes – one of the largest shoe stores in the world. Located in Dubai Mall, Level Shoes spans more than 96,000 square feet.
The company runs several retail own-concepts, created and managed by the Chalhoub Group. Tanagra, Faces, and Level Shoes are three of them. But it also owns the luxury oriental fragrance brand Ghawali, and department store Tryano, apart from Katakeet, which is a children’s luxury store.
The company said it intends to create more of its own brands in the future.
In 2017, the group acquired French manufacturer and retailer of high-end tableware, jewelry and home accessories Christofle. This was one of Chalhoub Group’s major investments, as Christofle’s revenue hit more than €51 million in 2017.
In 2018, Anthony Chalhoub passed away at the age of 63. Patrick became the CEO of the company.
Over the years, Chalhoub has developed its name as a luxury brand retailer and distributor, gaining several recognitions.
Just this month, it won three awards for retail technology, which were given by the Mena Stevie Awards. The company, along with its technology partner Red Ant, won two silver Stevies for innovation in shopping and e-commerce apps, and for innovative use of technology in customer service. They also won a bronze Stevie for innovation in technology development
Last year, it was certified as one of the best workplaces in five Middle East countries, an award given by Great Place To Work. The countries included the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar.
It also won two awards at the UK’s ‘International Customer Experience Awards’ in 2020.
The group has also been a member of the UN Global Compact Community since 2014 and a signatory of the Women’s Empowerment Principles.
Chalhoub Group today
Today, Chalhoub Group is present in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan and Egypt.
The Group has reinforced its distribution and marketing services with a portfolio of seven own brands and more than 300 international brands in the luxury, beauty and fashion categories.
More recently, the Group said it will expand its expertise into new categories, including luxury watches, jewellery, and eyewear, with brands such as Korloff.
It has more than 750 retail outlets across the region, and a team of more than 14,000 employees spanning more than 100 nationalities. It has more than 125 companies which include affiliates and joint ventures.
Today, the company is worth more than $2.5 billion, and remains the most significant luxury distributor in the Middle East.