Top 10 brands for UAE consumers in 2016 revealed

This year’s rankings explore the major reasons that make these names tick among UAE residents
Cleofe Maceda, Senior Web Reporter

10:08 July 17, 2016

Dubai: Emirates airline has earned the most positive buzz among consumers in the UAE this year, knocking off electronics giant Samsung and internet heavyweight Google, a global market research firm announced on Sunday.
With its continued ambitious expansion and creative marketing and advertising, the UAE’s home-grown carrier has topped the 2016 Mid-Year Best Brand rankings by YouGov, which regularly reviews more than 400 names in the consumer market place.
“The past six months saw the airline continue a high profile sponsorship strategy. It also caused a stir celebrating its football partnerships with six clubs and seven football themed aircraft take-offs in one day,” YouGov says.
Taking the second spot is mobile messaging platform WhatsApp, which has recently earned a boost in popularity after opening up its services to businesses this year. Occupying the third position is another tough brand to beat Samsung, which created some buzz in the Middle East with the launch of Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge.
A clear social media favourite, Facebook secured the fourth place, ahead of Apple in the fifth. Rounding off the rest of the top ten are YouTube, Emaar, Google, Etihad Airways and iPhone.
YouGov regularly measures the popularity of consumer brands using its BrandIndex Buzz score and by asking respondents, “If you’ve heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?” Each brand was assigned buzz scores ranging from 100 to negative 100, with a zero score indicating equal positive and negative feedback.
Both WhatsApp and Samsung are non-movers in the latest ranking, while Facebook climbed two places higher and Apple slipped one place. YouTube inched up one place and Emaar moved two positions higher. Google, on the other hand, dropped three places, while Etihad and iPhone also slipped two positions down.
YouGov further explains the reasons that make the ten brands tick among UAE consumers:
(1) Emirates
Emirates remains the buzziest brand in the UAE. The past six months saw the airline continue a high profile sponsorship strategy including elevating its sponsorship of the ATP World Tour to premier status. It also caused a stir celebrating its football partnerships with six clubs and seven football themed aircraft take-offs in one day. 2016 also saw the popular airline launch a brand new global advertising campaign aimed at showcasing its inflight experience to consumers.
(2) WhatsApp
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WhatsApp. 2016 saw the highly popular mobile messaging platform open up its service to brands allowing notifications to be exchanged between customers and companies. Dubai Municipality subsequently launched its very own WhatsApp number to receive images, videos or messages from concerned residents which was promoted on Facebook.
(3) Samsung
The Samsung Electronics headquarters in Seoul. Jay Y. Lee is the heir apparent to the Samsung empire
Samsung continued to create some buzz with the launch of its new Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge smartphone. Despite copycat reports in the wake of iPhone’s seemingly similar “Shot on iPhone” campaign, the world’s largest smartphone manufacturer launched its “Captured on the Galaxy S7” campaign and appears to have successfully engaged consumers in the quality of its Galaxy video footage shot in 4K Ultra HD. The brand also took to print advertising to showcase its new ‘Samsung-Soak out the mess’ washing machine campaign centered around the concept of how easy it is to dirty one’s clothes.
(4) Facebook
The social media giant has been linked to exciting developments in virtual technology with Samsung in 2016 to date and was quoted to have 120 million monthly active users in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) in February 2016. YouGov had earlier reported that the social media platform is the most regularly used by 82 per cent of residents in the UAE.
(5) Apple
After the successful launch of its first flagship stores in the UAE towards the end of 2015, Apple chief executive Tim Cook caused a stir in the Mall of the Emirates with a personal visit to the brand’s Dubai-based store in May 2016. Two new Apple stores have also opened at the Dubai Duty Free (DDF) in Dubai International Airport, in 2016 representing the largest-ever Apple outlets in travel retail.
(6) YouTube
Simple is effective
Continuing to increase its user base significantly in the Arab world, not least due to the magnetism of smartphone viewing, it is increasingly appealing to businesses to connect with their consumers. 2016 saw Dubai One TV launch their first dubai ON demand (dONd) channel on YouTube bringing English language lifestyle content to the small screen. The video online platform also launched the first edition of The Lantern, the first award to recognize the most impactful commercials offered by the advertisers in the MENA region during the month of Ramadan.
(7) Emaar
Emaar Properties
A string of exciting developments announced by the property developer have dominated the media in 2016 including The Tower at Dubai Creek which is reported to be 100 metres taller than the Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest tower in the world, on completion. Despite the fire-hit Address Hotel in Downtown Dubai hitting the media on New Year’s Eve 2015, the brand’s reputation has not been dented and looks to remain strong with first quarter profits reported to be up 22 per cent in 2016.
(8) Google
Google teamed up with local hospitality business Jumeirah to launch “Jumeirah Inside,” a Google street-view experience that travels through 23 Jumeirah hotels. The brand also launched Ad Words Express with YouTube to help SMB’s in the UAE to start advertising online easily. Women@Google also reached MENA – an employee resource group comprising female Googlers committed to providing networking and professional development and a sense of community to Googler women across 27 countries.
(9) Etihad Airways
Etihad Airways
The airline continues to connect with consumers with the theme ‘Flying Reimagined’. It released a brand new 360-degree fully immersive short film featuring Nicole Kidman in 2016 to provide potential customers with a “real experience”’ of the Airbus A380. The film is part of a comprehensive campaign to promote the piece via social and digital display, with custom Google Cardboard headsets being distributed at conferences and events.
(10) iPhone
Apple iPhone
Apple reported its flagship smartphone sales were responsible for its first quarterly decline in a decade. However the launch of the new iPhone SE in the Emirates together with the re-launch of its global “Shot on iPhone” advertising campaign across 25 countries including the UAE could help the brand create more buzz. The campaign featured photos from the Emirates’ very own residents. With the largest ever Apple outlet in travel retail now also open at Dubai International Airport iPhone remains one to watch for the second half of the year.

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Co-op sells 298 stores to McColls Retail in £117m deal

The Co-op Group has sold 298 of its smaller food stores in a £117m deal to convenience retailer McColls as part of the mutual’s turnaround strategy.
Earlier this year the Co-op hired advisers at investment boutique Rothschild to find prospective buyers for the shops, which equate to nearly 10pc of its estate, to raise funds for investment in the rest of its stores.
The deal, which requires approval from McColl’s shareholders and the UK’s competition watchdog, will boost McColl’s portfolio of 933 stores at a time of intense competition for high street sites from supermarkets looking to grow their convenience shops.
The fast-growing convenience sector has been valued at £37.7bn as an increase in time-poor shoppers spurred the opening of two new stores a day last year.
McColls chief executive Jonathan Miller said: “These stores are profitable, well invested, and the perfect size for our operating model. We expect the transaction to be significantly earnings enhancing for our shareholders.”
Co-op Food boss Steve Murrells said that the sale was “completely in line with our strategy, as these stores did not allow us to provide a sufficiently compelling own-brand offer for our members going forwards”.
“The proceeds will be re-invested to drive sustainable growth for our members and I’m delighted that all 3,808 colleagues will transfer to McColl’s on the same terms and conditions.”
The Co-op has been reshufling its store estate. In May it shed around 100 former Somerfield properties to restructuring firm Hilco, which included 36 loss-making shops and 60 empty stores. Last week the Co-op bought six stores from My Local, the convenience retailer that collapsed into administration. 
In May the Co-op launched a major overhaul of its branding and membership structure as part of its attempts to rebuild its battered reputation.
The Co-op has brought back its distinctive blue “cloverleaf” design logo, which was phased out more than three decades ago, as part of efforts to return the company to its core ethical values.

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Victoria’s Secret opens North West flagship at Liverpool ONE

Lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret has opened a new North West regional flagship on Liverpool ONE’s South John Street.

The 9,200 square foot store features a full assortment of Victoria’s Secret’s lingerie collections as well as signature scents and body care collections.
Miles Dunnett from Grosvenor Europe said: “Attracting the best global brands to Liverpool ONE is key and they do not get much better than Victoria’s Secret. They are a superb addition to our industry leading line-up and help cement Liverpool ONE’s position as one of the prime retail and leisure destinations in the UK.”
Other retailers with regional flagships at Liverpool ONE include Michael Kors, Flannels, Zara, Hugo Boss, Reiss, Ted Baker and the soon-to-open White Company boutique.

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Poundland agrees to £597m takeover from Steinhoff

Poundland storeDiscount chain Poundland has agreed to a £597m takeover by South African retail group Steinhoff International.

Steinhoff said Poundland would be a “complementary fit” to its expansion plans in the UK and the rest of Europe.

Poundland operates more than 900 stores across the UK, Ireland and Spain, and employs 18,000 people, but recently announced falling profits.

Steinhoff owns 40 retail brands in 30 countries, including Bensons for Beds and Harveys in the UK.

Steinhoff: The Ikea of Africa?

Steinhoff has already built up a 23% stake in Poundland, and last month made an informal approach to buy the firm, which was rejected.

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Steinhoff in a nutshell

Headquartered in South Africa from German origins

Founded in 1964 by Bruno Steinhoff

6,500 retail outlets in 30 countries

22 manufacturing facilities

40 retail brands, including Bensons for Beds and Harveys in the UK, Conforama in Europe, Pep and Ackermans in South Africa and Snooze in Australia

Also has property and automotive assets

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‘Attractive price’

Last month, Poundland reported a fall in full-year profits as it admitted the integration of 99p Stores, which it bought in September last year, had placed a “strain” on its business.

Steinhoff is paying 222 pence per share for Poundland. The discount retailer’s share price had fallen from 418p in February 2015 to below 200p before the deal was announced.

Poundland chairman Darren Shapland said: “The Poundland board believes that Steinhoff’s all-cash offer presents Poundland shareholders with an opportunity to realise their shareholding at a certain and attractive price.”

The pound has also dropped about 15% against the rand since Steinhoff made its approach for Poundland in June.

“The weak pound makes this all the more attractive for the South African retailer,” said Neil Wilson, analyst at ETX Capital.

“Expanding its operations in Europe should act as a useful hedge against rand volatility and exposure to South Africa’s stagnant economy.”

Argus lorryImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image caption

Steinhoff lost out to Sainsbury’s in the race to buy Argos owner Home Retail

Shares in Poundland, based in Willenhall in the English West Midlands, rebounded 12% to 220p on Tuesday following news of the deal.

Steinhoff has been trying to increase its exposure in Europe this year. The purchase of Poundland comes after an unsuccessful attempt to buy Argos owner Home Retail Group, when Sainsbury’s ended up as the successful bidder.

Steinhoff also failed in an attempt to buy French electronic goods retailer Darty which lost out to French retail chain Fnac.

‘Good’ prospects

Analysts said the outlook for Poundland and other discount stores in the UK looked bright given that the vote to leave the EU is expected to dent economic growth.

“Prospects look good for Poundland,” said Jonathan Pritchard, retail analyst at Peel Hunt. “A possible consumer downturn plays into discounters’ hands as consumers looking to save cash trade down.”

However, the fall in sterling’s value may force Poundland into a change of strategy, and ultimately to drop the single price point it trades on, in favour of becoming a general discount store chain like Home Bargains or B&M.

“It operates on wafer-thin margins, so in the medium term, their strategy may be to look for a wider product range to offset the fall in the currency,” said Greg Bromley, senior analyst at Verdict Retail.

But he added that any such move was unlikely to happen within the next year, and that it would present opportunities to rivals.

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Asda’s new UK boss could be planning a nuclear price war. He could easily lose it

You’ve probably never heard of him, but incoming Asda boss Sean Clarke is said to be the man with his hand wavering over the red button, ready to trigger a supermarket price war to end all price wars.
Last week respected HSBC retail analyst David McCarthy put the cat among the pigeons warning that Clarke, installed by his American paymasters Walmart, was gearing up for a summer price war that could “wipe out” rivals’ profits. On publication the note, titled Defcon 1, managed to wipe £1.6bn from the stock market value of listed rivals Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons in a single day’s trading.
Clarke, who started his retail career at Asda in 1996, is an unknown quantity albeit with a global supermarket pedigree. He has worked for Walmart for 20 years, serving tours in Japan, Germany, Canada and latterly Walmart China and is being parachuted in to end a long period of underperformance at the retailer’s UK business. His surprise appointment deposed another Clarke (Andy), who had been in charge since 2010 – a gruelling period characterised by the rise of discounters Aldi and Lidl, unprecedented price deflation and changing shopping habits.
While its publicly listed rivals have spent the last two years cutting prices (and profit margins) to win back shoppers, Asda has focused on defending its profitability rather than market share with an efficiency drive that has seen it fall behind rivals in both the quality and availability of its food. Customers have punished Asda for taking this stance, with the retailer nursing a fall in underlying sales that is approaching its second anniversary. It is now the UK’s third-largest grocer after surrendering second place to Sainsbury’s, a swap once considered inconceivable.
The changing of the Clarkes, which officially takes place tomorrow, came soon after Walmart International chief David Cheesewright told the Walmart annual investor jamboree in Bentonville, Arkansas that it was “very disappointed” with Asda and it was time to change tack and switch from “protecting profit to protecting share”.
Does that mean a price war? In McCarthy’s note he suggests: “If Asda decided to invest half its margin into price, a competitor reaction could wipe out almost all industry profitability and would force an industry restructure.”
But why would he do that? It would hurt Asda too. Other experts point out that Asda offers the lowest prices of the “big four” supermarket chains anyway. Bryan Roberts, analyst at TCC Global points out: “Asda’s been the cheapest for 15 years and it’s obviously not working. Why would being even cheaper work more effectively? It’s not about getting cheaper, it’s about getting people to re-evaluate and revisit Asda.”
To win shoppers in China, Clarke (Sean) has had to do more than play the price card as their choice of supermarket is also influenced by concerns such as food quality and freshness. “He has experience of using messages other than price to drive sales,” says Roberts.
Talk of a more intense groceryprice war comes as food retailers gird themselves for the fallout from the Brexit vote. The collapse in the value of the pound is bad news for a country that imports 40% of its food and retailers will have to walk the tightrope of taking a hit on profits by absorbing price rises themselves, or passing cost increases on to price-sensitive shoppers.
As if that were not enough for supermarket bosses to wring their hands over, another City broker waded in last week in to argue that Tesco’s shares, currently at 163p, are only really worth 80p because there are too many UK grocery stores as Aldi and Lidl expand and the online crew, Ocado and Amazon Fresh, take share. Up to a third of supermarkets need to close to make the industry more profitable, is the message from analysts at Redburn.
It’s not just price that makes us shop where we shop and Asda needs to broaden its appeal beyond “busy mums on a budget”. Two-thirds of shoppers now frequent the discounters, yet many Britons still turn their noses up at Asda. It has an image problem, not a price problem, it needs to address. For Clarke (Sean) to choose the nuclear price option looks like the road to mutually assured destruction.
It’s grim down south
The unfortunate commuters of south London and Sussex can from tomorrow plan their lives on a surer basis, according to Southern. The solution, though, involves “pre-cancelling” 341 trains a day and consigning coastal residents to the bus.
These are desperate times on Southern, a once unremarkable train service whose extraordinary decline has sent its passengers – many priced out of London into the suburbs and beyond – into despair. The management, its reputation shredded, has sought to lay the blame on the unions, which brought industrial action over the role of conductors on new trains.
But accusing staff of playing sick does not, unsurprisingly, appear to have won over employees. And the chaos had already been plain to see for commuters, who know that the strikes and staff shortages have only exacerbated deep-rooted problems: problems that include the revelation to MPs last week that Southern owner Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) only found out how few staff it had when it took over the franchise.
Yet GTR has one supporter: the Department for Transport (DfT). The continuing defence by ministers, and refusal to countenance appeals to strip the company of its franchise, no matter how many performance measures it breaches, has fuelled union suspicion that GTR are simply doing the DfT’s dirty work. Union opposition to driver-only operation of doors, a practice GTR is extending, is a stated safety concern, but underlined by the fear that job cuts will inevitably eventually follow.
The government doubtless would like to cut staff costs, but the actual problem may run deeper than just money. The rail franchising system is creaking badly. Bidders have been far from plentiful in recent competitions. The totemic, lucrative East Coast franchise has not delivered the anticipated rewards back in private hands.
Now, the newly combined Thameslink, Great Northern and Southern mega-franchise that Govia operates is starting to look just too big to manage. For rivals, taking it over might now look about as appealing as a daily commute to the capital from Brighton.
Putting up the warning signs
The commercial property market is an early-warning radar for the economy. If businesses start pulling out of rental deals to occupy office or shop space, that it is not a good sign for job creation. If property firms pull out of deals to buy buildings or scrap plans for new developments, those are not good signs either.
Last week saw a wave of property funds announce that they will stop investors withdrawing their money, which is another warning sign. The funds stopped redemptions because so many investors were looking to get their cash after the European Union referendum.
This risks creating a vicious circle. As investors pull their money out of investment funds, those funds are forced to sell assets to hand back the cash, suppressing prices in the market and causing further uncertainty.
The sharp fall in the value of sterling means that commercial property in the UK, particularly in London, is now cheaper for overseas investors. That could be the only thing that protects the sector – and maybe the economy – from a Brexit slump.

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Sales at UK’s Marks & Spencer drop the most in 8 years

Marks & Spencer Group Plc reported its steepest drop in clothing sales in eight years as new chief Steve Rowe’s efforts to win back customers with cheaper prices on leggings and fewer clearances came at a cost.

Same-store sales of clothing and home goods fell 8.9% in the 13 weeks ended July 2, the London-based company said Thursday, worse than the 5% drop analysts expected. About 5 percentage points of the decline was due to a delayed clearance sale and an earlier Easter holiday in 2016, Rowe said. The retailer cut prices on about 1,000 products during the quarter.
Marks & Spencer is No. 18 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Europe 500 with estimated 2015 web sales of 1.76 billion euros ($1.95 billion), according to data.
“These are not the numbers I want to see, not by any stretch,” Rowe said on a conference call. “But they are the numbers I expected to see. We’re pleased with how the re-pricing is going.”
Having succeeded Marc Bolland in April, Rowe is seeking to reverse a clothing sales slump stretching back four years. His goal is to reduce prices permanently and convince customers they are getting a good deal shopping at M&S, which for years has been losing out to budget competitors such as Primark. His cause hasn’t been helped by consumer confidence which he said remains “fragile” after the U.K.’s Brexit vote.
Marks & Spencer shares fell 1.2% to 290.7 pence at 9:50 a.m. in London, extending their decline this year to 36%.
“Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse for M&S, they did, and then some,” John Ibbotson, director of consultant Retail Vision, said by email. “Despite his best intentions, Rowe has not been able to stop the rot.”
The CEO said he’s been encouraged by the response of customers to changes in the retailer’s pricing as he seeks to compete better with the likes of Primark, which also reported results Thursday and has expanded outside the U.K. in recent years.
M&S is cutting the number of clearance sales to six from nine this year, and that will reduce to four next year. The price reductions made in the quarter reduced average selling prices by about 3%, the CEO said. Rowe pointed as an example to pairs of women’s leggings, where sales volumes more than doubled after the price was cut to 15 pounds from 19.50 pounds.
“The actions we’re taking are even more important in the context of the market we’re seeing,” he said. “We’re operating in uncertain times.”
Marks & Spencer doesn’t expect any short-term impact from the U.K.’s Brexit vote and hasn’t witnessed any further dip in consumer confidence since the referendum, he said.
The retailer’s food unit boosted sales by 4% in the quarter, although same-store revenue declined 0.9%, missing analyst estimates.
Marks & Spencer maintained its full-year forecasts, including an expansion of 50 to 100 basis points in general-merchandise gross margins.

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Worst June in a Decade as U.K. Retailers Experience Brexit Chill

U.K. retailers had their worst June in a decade as consumers reined in spending ahead of the country’s European Union referendum, according to figures from accounting firm BDO.
Sales at stores open at least a year fell 3.6 percent last month, with weekly figures deteriorating progressively, BDO research showed. A separate report from researcher GfK showed U.K. consumer confidence has crumbled since voters opted for Brexit.
BDO’s research confirms comments from retailers including Marks & Spencer Group Plc that shoppers trimmed spending in the lead-up to the referendum. U.K. retailers could see more pain following Britain’s vote to leave the EU as sterling’s decline pushes up costs and ebbing demand weighs on results, analysts at Jefferies and Deutsche Bank have said.
“Many retailers may have hedged against the falling pound for the short term, but if sterling stays at these levels, the cost of importing goods and further erosion to margin may need to be passed onto the consumer,” said Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO.
U.K. retail stocks have plunged in the two weeks since the Brexit vote. The FTSE 350 General Retailers Index is down 16 percent in that time.
After gaining 3.8 percent in the first week of the month, same-store sales fell 8.1 percent in the final week, BDO said. Sales of fashion and products for the home were worst hit, falling 4.9 percent and 6 percent, respectively. Dunelm Group Plc, which sells home furnishings, said Thursday that fourth-quarter like-for-like sales fell 0.6 percent.
In addition to uncertainty surrounding the referendum, business was also affected by poor weather, the advisory firm said. Primark’s sales weakened recently due to a cold April, parent company Associated British Foods Plc said this week.
Since the Brexit vote, consumers have become gloomier. A measure of their confidence taken by GfK after the referendum showed the steepest decline since 1994.
Marks & Spencer on Thursday reported its steepest drop in clothing sales in eight years, with first-quarter same-store sales of clothing and home goods falling 8.9 percent.

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