MeRetailNews sat down with the CEO of the Brands for Less Group, Toufic Kreidieh, to learn more about the company’s path to success and to hear about its aspirations, digital innovations and expansion plans.
Mr Kreidieh’s journey started off humbly. Despite a challenging upbringing in Beirut during the Civil War that lasted between 1975 and 1990 he was fortunate to attend one of the region’s most esteemed educational institutions – the American University of Beirut – where he acquired a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management. He later collaborated with schoolfriend Yasser Beydoun to start the Brands For Less Group in 1996.
“From a young age, I knew the importance of hard work and financial stability. To support my mother and my siblings, I started working part-time when I was just 13 years old. This early experience taught me the value of persistent effort in achieving my goals, and it inspired me to pursue entrepreneurship.
“Today, I look back on the hardships I faced with a deep appreciation for my accomplishments”. It is by virtue of overcoming adversity and hardships that he came to cherish his accomplishments: “…and I am grateful for the opportunities that have come my way”.
Despite limited financial resources, Mr Kreidieh and Mr Beydoun were driven by fervent determination. The BFL Group started as a modest retail store that literally emerged from the underground in 1996 – in the underground parking garage in Beirut.
The young businessmen soon realised the retail sector was a crowded market where establishing a long-term presence without a unique strategy could prove immensely challenging. Undaunted, they crafted the innovative ‘treasure hunt’ concept, providing customers with a surprise and exciting shopping experience each time they visited their stores.
“The collection and finds are never the same, creating an element of surprise and mystery. As we expanded to new locations across the GCC, we continued to create a distinctive retail environment. Our brand is recognised for its commitment to providing a seamless and distinctive shopping experience, tailored to the needs and expectations of each customer. We achieve this through our incorporation of technology into every aspect of our company,” Mr Kreidieh says.
It took a while before the venture took off. But later the company started witnessing rapid growth with every store opening, especially after entering the UAE in 2000. Now, the company operates multiple stores in six markets across the Middle East and Europe, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman.
“Our innovative technology enables us to deliver unmatched value and a distinctive shopping experience to all our customers,” says Mr Toufic.
To date, the company has more than 80 stores in the UAE and throughout the GCC. Just recently, it opened a store at Othaim Mall in Riyadh.
Expansion and innovation
The company’s enthusiasm for innovation is booming. Its recently introduced ‘Beauty For Less” concept was created to adapt to the ever-changing market, Mr Kreidieh says. As the demand for beauty and personal care products has skyrocketed in recent years due to the influence of social media, emerging consumers and an increase in e-commerce activities, the company has dipped its toes further into the beauty sector.
“We recognised the need to add cosmetics and beauty products to our product line to cater to this growing demand, particularly in the Middle East. As the industry continues to evolve, we are committed to continuously exploring new avenues and bringing new concepts to our customers,” Mr Kreidieh says.
Digital innovations rule supreme
Over the past few years, BFL spared no efforts to invest in digital marketing campaigns and e-commerce infrastructure. “Our business has undoubtedly benefited from the digital revolution”, Mr Kreidieh says.
The efforts paid off: it expanded the Brands For Less customer base beyond its physical stores and also refined its personalisation approach via the e-commerce platform. “In today’s market, going digital is a key factor in growth, and adopting digital technology is central to our growth strategy to remain competitive and meet evolving customer needs,” says Mr Kreidieh. “Therefore, we plan to continue investing in this area.”
Today, digital resiliency has become a crucial factor for the survival and growth of businesses. BFL wanted to stay on top of the trend and decided to embrace it in various ways.
The Group started modernising ITS e-commerce platform by launching an online fulfilment centre that prioritises their online customers and orders. This initiative yielded tremendous benefits: it ramped up their revenue in no time while their online presence surged. Another crucial step, Mr Kreidieh underpins, was the collaboration with IQ Robotics. It played a key role in speeding up turnaround times and efficiently restocking their stores across different locations.
“With the help of more than 160 robots, we have successfully increased the daily fulfilLment of our stores. We will continue to invest in technology to improve our operations and enhance the shopping experience for our customers,” Mr Kreidieh says.
“Sustainability is a critical component of any business’s success”
While for some businesses sustainability concerns are largely sidelined, Brands For Less deftly incorporates eco-friendliness into its marketing strategy.
“As a retail business, we recognise the importance of keeping up with changing market trends, patterns, and customer needs, as well as ensuring sustainability in our products and services,” Mr Kreidieh says.
“To meet these demands, we regularly assess our product offerings and collaborate with vendors and manufacturers who prioritise sustainability and ethical business practices.”
Mr Kreidieh assures that all customer preferences, market trends and suggestions and recommendations are kept top of mind: “We firmly believe that sustainability is a critical component of any business’s success and will continue to prioritise it while adapting to various market trends in a way that is financially and ecologically sustainable,” he says.
BFL is currently working on adding a ‘Sustainable Products’ section within its stores to promote eco-friendly merchandise.
While reflecting on the Brand for the Less ultimate goal, Mr Kreidieh stresses the importance of staying abreast of the constantly evolving market. Ultimately, the company’s success boils down to two ingredients, he says, staying authentic and relentlessly striving to deliver innovative and unique concepts that will win the hearts of its customers.