What new initiatives is Amouage currently involved in?
CRICKMORE: Amouage started from a very low base 6 years ago and is now developing all over the world. For us, everything is about newness. We are focusing on new markets, new products, new environments, and new people. We are looking to build on the platform of retail development by opening our own stores in key opinion forming cities around the world to make sure that the brand is shown in its purest and truest sense. We also have new products and new categories of products coming. Leather goods are a product category that we have developed in the past which has proven to be incredibly successful and there are other categories that we will be looking to develop in the future. There have also been a lot of developments in terms of manufacturing. Our new Factory & Visitors’ Centre opened at the end of last year. It gives us a greater capacity moving forward that we hope we can sustain for the next 10 years. Therefore, our capacity for manufacturing is increasing. Across the board, we are focusing on innovation. We are opening offices in strategic cities around the world. We already have one office opening in Kuala Lumpur and a major one opened in London. We also have offices in Dubai, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.
What kinds of growth have you experienced in recent years? What are your expectations for the future?
CRICKMORE: You have to understand that Amouage was at a very low base when I arrived. It was a small business predominately geared around the Omani market. It also generated a small amount of business across the GCC and in London. That was about it and there was not much development in other markets. However, in the last 6 years, we have grown the brand exponentially compared to what it used to be. We have opened new offices in various markets and, going forward, we are looking to move into new markets that we are not strong in at this point. These markets are in the Far East, in particular, China, Japan and Korea. We are now doing well in Hong Kong. There are also markets in Southeast Asia, such as Indonesia, where we ought to be stronger. We are currently doing well in Singapore and Malaysia. We have just entered South America in Uruguay. However, the South American market is completely new to us and is a development that we will be focusing on this year. As you can see, we are continually diversifying our market base.
Which markets are you looking to move into? How do you see this evolving over the next 2-5 years?
CRICKMORE: We have grown through wholesale in Europe and it is an important strength for us. It is a very important part of the world for Amouage in terms of our product and our brand. We now want to build on that initial strength and consumer awareness by developing our own shops. This is a challenge for us in Europe because it is a mature market. Many of the good sites are already taken. As a result, we are eagerly waiting for prime retail space to become available. It is not easy for a brand that is fairly new because most leasing companies prefer to have more known brands as tenants. However, we are beginning to become recognized and sites are being offered to us in markets that we want to be in. These sites have been in certain cities with the right locations. With a luxury brand such as Amouage, it is all about being in the right location and with the right brand adjacency that fit with our brand.
What are the main challenges that Amouage is currently facing in establishing its brand in new markets? Geographically speaking, where have you been most successful and where have you found it more challenging?
CRICKMORE: We really focused on Europe for the first few years for the development of our business. Europe is a very open market in many ways. They love the concept of Amouage coming from Arabia. They love the exotic perfumes of Arabia image and it was very easy for us to expand our brand to that region. We are an oriental house. Our fragrances are oriental and they like the fact that we have that point of view. From a taste standpoint, the Far East has been more difficult to expand to. They love the concept and origin of the brand but the fragrance is a little stronger then their normal taste. We have been focusing on cultivating this acquired taste in that region. It is working and we are developing a very nice high-level consumer base in the Far East. America has been the most difficult market to break into. The American consumer is very safe when it comes to fragrance. That is why we are having a more difficult job putting it over into the American market. I believe that the only way we will be successful in America is by developing our own shops. That may be the only way we can send the proper message to the American consumer.
How would you describe the current landscape of the luxury retail sector in the GCC?
CRICKMORE: I think that the GCC is made for the luxury sector in many ways. What is incredible and amazing about the Arab consumer is that they have really learned to understand quality. They do not just go out and buy brands because of the brand name. They actually want to see quality and something tangible for the money they are spending. The younger consumers from the GCC market really do their research. They are knowledgeable about quality and know what they want. As a market, the GCC is ideal for the luxury sector. However, I think there are brands within the luxury sector that have declined in quality over the past few years. This is a mistake because a true luxury consumer will always expect the best. This is why we, as a brand, seek out the best ingredients, presentation, and packaging. It is important that we keep these ideals in mind when we market ourselves and address consumers. We always seek to provide the best. I believe that a luxury brand will only remain strong as long as they keep focusing on these details. Those that try to go for the fast buck in difficult economic times are the ones that will suffer in the future.
There are many brands from the GCC that have shops in Europe, but they are selling to traveling and local Arabs. We sell to a total international consumer. We are the first and only luxury goods brand from the GCC to do that.
What is your vision for the Amouage brand? What efforts are you currently undertaking to achieve your branding goals?
CRICKMORE: My overall vision is the same as the owners. We want to keep expanding. It is amazing how the brand has grown in the last 6 years since we did the re-positioning. We have moved it into a new category of product, leather goods, and it is being greatly accepted. Our leather goods are high quality and hand stitched in Florence. It has been quite an interesting shift considering that these are coming from a perfume house. It makes me believe that we can do other categories of product in the future and move into that area. The short-term vision is to embed the brand into all of the key markets around the world. We will do this by opening our own shops and making sure that the brand is put over in the purest sense. It is important to ensure that the DNA is very clear to the consumer in the international world. We must keep creating and innovating. Hopefully, in the very long-term, we will evolve from a fragrance house into a total international luxury goods brand. This would be the first time that it has happened. This is already the first time a luxury GCC brand has sold to international consumers. There are many brands from the GCC that have shops in Europe, but they are selling to traveling and local Arabs. We sell to a total international consumer. We are the first and only luxury goods brand from the GCC to do that. So, who knows where we can go from here.