The 5th Franchise UAE Expo, the region’s leading franchise, retail and SME trade event, generated deals worth over $100 million and initiated moves that could translate into firm contracts. Over 80 per cent space in next year’s edition has been booked, according to Franchise Middle East, organisers of the show.
“The overwhelming response to the show has prompted us to target over 100 franchise brands for the next year’s event, covering 16 sectors,” said Mana Al Suwaidi, Chairman and CEO, Franchise Middle East Consultancy. “From this year, Franchise Expo UAE is being listed on the global calendar of franchise industry events, on the lines of the established shows held annually in France, the United States and Singapore.”
“Apart from the varied mix of exhibitors from 18 countries representing 80 brands, we had over 3000 quality trade visitors, including from countries like China, Japan, Iran and many African countries, an indicator of the growing interest in the MENA region as a major franchising destination. As a result, we have decided to take the next year’s event to a bigger and more prestigious venue,” Al Suwaidi added.
Among the franchise brands that reported huge interest were local brands like ICONS, Halwa & Gahwa Fresh Plus, Mandilicious, and international names like Desita, Regan Bulgaria, Barbecue Garden and Beef o Brady’s.
Hamad S. Al Neaimi, Chairman of HSSI Group, which runs the Halwa and Gahwa chocolate chain, said: “This event has taken us closer to our goal of making Halwa and Gahwa a global brand, and position itself as the world’s best chocolate. We have already firmed up plans for the GCC, and our goal is to expand to Asia in 2015, Europe in 2016 and the US by 2017.”
ICONS, the world’s first stevia-based, sugar-free coffee chain based on German technology and operating from Ras Al Khaimah, is targeting the whole of GCC as part of an ambitious expansion drive.
“ICONS offers coffees, pastries and cakes that use stevia instead of sugar,” says Elena Weber, the woman behind the unique concept. “We believe that stevia-based products are ideal for this part of the world where the prevalence of diabetes is very high. We saw tremendous interest from visitors and we have firmed up plans to launch ICONS stores in Kuwait, Qatar, Iran and other neighbouring countries.”
Fayez Al Nusari, Managing Director of Mandilicious, a chain offering Arabian cuisine in food court settings with four chains in Dubai, said: “There has been tremendous interest in our brand, because we bring authentic and quality Arabian cuisine to food courts. By the end of 14, we will have 15 outlets in UAE. During this exhibition, we have signed up for three GCC territories, which means we will soon have multiple outlets across GCC.”
Emarat, which is seeking to expand it Fresh Plus, Bakeria and Café Arabica brands across GCC, reported tremendous interest from trade visitors. Nabile Aityoussef, Network Plannning Coordinator, Emarat, said: “There is huge demand for FreshPlus type of convenience stores. We have 12 outlets in the UAE and two in Oman and one is due to open shortly in Abu Dhabi. Through this exhibition, we are planning expansion in free zones, malls, airport and big communities.”
Norman A. Cescut, of Desita, Italy, said: “The franchising industry is very vibrant in the MENA region and we saw great interest in our expertise in shop design. We have already signed two agreements and expect more to materialize soon.”
Organisers of the Franchise UAE Expo will be promoting the next year’s edition extensively in international symposiums. In addition, the Expo’s Conference is under evaluation for certification for industry credits. Finally, organisations providing funds for UAE entrepreneurs are discussing moves to provide franchising training and skills development, as the franchise model picks up momentum.