Saudi retail shopping remains preferred over online, says EY official

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The vast majority of purchases remain offline and in store — and will continue to do so for years.
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Ahmed Reda, MENA consumer products and retail leader at EY.
Updated 04 October 2017
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Saudi retail shopping remains preferred over online, says EY official

RIYADH: Despite the growing developments in online shopping, Ahmed Reda, MENA consumer products and retail leader at EY, ruled out that online shopping will take over retail in the Kingdom.
In an exclusive statement to Arab News, Reda said industry watchers and shoppers love to ask whether online shopping will take over retail. “The discussion that follows is usually passionate. Common convention is that the young generation will drive this change.”
He explained that despite the perpetual growth of online shopping, the in-store experience remains critical.
“Shopping has changed a lot since the rise of the Web. E-commerce is booming around the world, providing both customers and retailers with many benefits — convenience, speed and a better understanding of spending and consumption habits that can help both retailers and consumers respond to their spending patterns.” Yet, he said that the vast majority of purchases remain offline and in-store — and will continue to do so for years.
“We have our favorite homegrown Saudi brands and international brands that many of us grew up with, continue to enjoy and have remained loyal to.”
However, he said: “We are seeing more retailers move away from making the product the hero to making experiences the heroes, which reflects the move toward a service economy.”
It isn’t just about the “experiential” experience in flagship stores, but everyday transaction experiences. For example, he pointed out that the customers who order online for an in-store delivery will be unhappy if the item they ordered is not there at the pick-up time or if it takes a long time to locate. Moreover, if they choose to venture into a store, they lose confidence if sales associates cannot quickly find the product information that customers can easily access on their mobile phones.
The role of the store is becoming more complex, important and demanding — a combination of fulfilment center, showroom and theater. In this era of information, personal knowledge and interaction is the silver bullet. For some categories, he noted that customers now expect to be able to interact with the product and talk to someone who is an expert.
Retail customers expect shopping to be a singular experience, not separate interactions in different channels. The physical store is part of the omni-channel experience, not separate from it. In the same way, digital is not just an extension of bricks and mortar but an experience in itself.
For shopping to be a truly seamless and global experience, he said, it cannot have a breakpoint at the street level or online. Retailers need to close the loop by mimicking the digital experience in-store, he concluded.


Iraq denies links to drone attack on Saudi oil facilities

Updated 15 min 10 sec ago
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Iraq denies links to drone attack on Saudi oil facilities

  • The operation was claimed by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen
  • ‘Iraq is constitutionally committed to preventing any use of its soil to attack its neighbors’

JEDDAH: Baghdad on Sunday denied any link to drone attacks on Saudi oil plants, after media speculation that the strikes were launched from Iraq despite being claimed by Yemeni rebels.
The attacks early Saturday targeted two key oil installations, causing massive fires and taking out half of the Kingdom’s vast oil output.
The operation was claimed by Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen, where an Arab coalition has been fighting to restore the internationally recognized government.
But the Wall Street Journal å reported that officials were investigating the possibility the attacks involved missiles launched from Iraq or Iran.
Kuwait is investigating the sighting of a drone over its territory and is coordinating with Saudi Arabia and other countries, the cabinet said on Sunday.
“The security leadership has started the necessary investigations over the sighting of a drone over the coastline of Kuwait City and what measures were taken to confront it,” the cabinet said on its Twitter account.
It said Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah directed military and security officers to tighten security at vital installations in the OPEC producer and to take all necessary measures “to protect Kuwait’s security.”
Some Iraqi media outlets have said Saturday’s attack on Saudi oil facilities came from Iraq, which borders Kuwait. But Baghdad denied this on Sunday and vowed to punish anyone using Iraq as a launch pad for attacks in the region. 
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi on Sunday denied reports Iraqi territory “was used for drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities.”
“Iraq is constitutionally committed to preventing any use of its soil to attack its neighbors,” he said in a statement.
“The Iraqi government will be extremely firm with whomever tries to violate the constitution.”
Iraq is home to several Iran-backed militias and paramilitary factions, placing it in an awkward situation amid rising tensions between its two main sponsors, Tehran and Washington.
United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo squarely accused Tehran of being behind Saturday’s operation, saying there was no evidence the “unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply” was launched from Yemen.
Iraq has called for its territory to be spared any spillover in the standoff between the US and Iran, which has included a series of attacks on shipping in sensitive Gulf waters.
Recent raids on bases belonging to Iraqi Shiite paramilitary groups linked with Iran, attributed to Israel, sparked fears of an escalation.
There have been no military consequences so far, but the strikes have heightened divisions between pro-Tehran and pro-Washington factions in Iraq’s political class.
Baghdad has recently moved to repair ties with Saudi Arabia, a key US ally — much to Iran’s chagrin.
Riyadh recently announced a major border post on the Iraqi frontier would reopen mid-October, after being closed for almost three decades.