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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s biggest retail franchise group reported a full year loss of SR577.5 million ($153.9 million) as the global shopping industry emerges from near paralysis.
Fawaz A. Alhokair & Co (Alhokair) is behind some of the region’s biggest brands and like other retail groups worldwide has been heavily exposed to the fallout from coronavirus-related lockdowns throughout the Middle East.
“We have significantly cut operating expenses and are continuously streamlining our supply chain process by strengthening our supplier relationships and with investments in technology,” said CEO Marwan Moukarzel. “As we come to grips with the impact of COVID-19, we will not shrink from maintaining or even accelerating this pace of change and widening its scope to encompass new aspects of the business model."
The retailer said it closed 234 stores over the year ending March 31 2020, but also gained 125 outlets through its acquisition of ten new international restaurant brands that included Cinnabon and Seattle’s Best Coffee. In overall terms, its global network of outlets fell to 1,580 stores from 1,689 a year earlier.
The coronavirus pandemic has devastated the global high street and triggered the collapse of several major retail names including Debenhams and JCPenney. The crisis has also spurred the growth of online shopping as more people were forced to turn to the internet for purchases. KPMG estimates online retailing could account for half of all the goods bought by 2025 which is five years earlier than previously estimated.
Alhokair has also stepped up its push into the world of online retail in response to the pandemic.
“Current market circumstances have spurred us to expedite the rollout of several new online platforms, better positioning us for any situation in which e-commerce gains in importance. We saw a significant increase in online orders during the period and have taken the opportunity to enhance our last-mile delivery capabilities,” added Moukarzel.
Alhokair reported a 1.5 percent decline in sales of SR5.34 billion in the year to March 31 2020. It made a net loss of SR577.5 million compared to a profit of SR138.1 million a year earlier.
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