The last twenty years has seen 'branded' perfume and cosmetics from Europe spread throughout the Middle East. They have gradually replaced traditional Arabic perfumery, which blended rare oils and spices to produce scents matching an individual's preference and skin type. The atrophying of such a traditional business is the consequence of the new affuence which opened the door to goods and services which could not be afforded thirty years ago.
Today, the importance of perfumes manufactured in Europe and America and branded under the names of famous fashion houses and celebreties has increased to the point where it is almost unthinkable among the fashionable to use any product not defined by a logo.
Al Shindagah's Reem Mahmoud met with Abdullah Abdul Rahim Al Fahim, general manager and owner of Al Fahim Trading Enterprises, a retail chain specialising in branded perfumes and cosmetics. Al Fahim spoke of the changing nature of this market in the Gulf.
How do you evaluate the perfume and cosmetics market in the U.A.E?
There has been a change in attitude in this part of the world by both men and women. Perfumes and cosmetics are no longer considered luxury goods but essentials for everyday living. This is not just a regional trend but a global one. People are increasingly becoming concerned about the image they project, and as they become more affluent they can afford to purchase things that make them feel attractive.
Is there much competition among the many Gulf companies now manufacturing cosmetics in the region?
Competition is increasing among local manufacturing companies who produce for the Middle East market, and more and more products are becoming available locally. Competition is no bad thing as it tends to regulate the market in terms of price and product quality, which benefits the consumer.
Is the cosmetics business well structured?
Sixty percent of the UAE perfume and cosmetics market retailers and wholesalers ensure that the products they sell are genuine and not a danger to the user. They also give advice on product use, and display and store their product properly.
The other forty percent of the market just buys and sells products with no thought for presentation or correct storage procedures. The lack of knowledge about storage can lead to perfumes going sour and making cosmetics a possible health hazard if applied to the skin.
The presence of these non-specialised traders who display their cosmetic without complying with health and safety standards and storage methods are the biggest cause of concern in the market today.
What is the solution in your opinion?
The best solution is to forbid non-agents from importing cosmetic products. If retailers buy from recognised agents, those professionals ensure that their products are sold properly.
Why not set up a cosmetics industry in the U.A.E?
Seen as part of the global market for beauty products, the local market is very small, so it is unlikly that we will see large scale investment in this sector. To establish a viable cosmetics company, you need very sophisticated techniques and manufacturing processes, plus highly trained chemists, doctors and technicians to produce and test new products. Having said that, local companies have been set up to manufacture less demanding products like shampoos and light creams. But even this industry is still confined within the national borders.
Nowadays product counterfeiting is a major international problem. Do you feel the current laws on copyright provide adequate protection?
Although copyright laws exist, they have only been partially implemented. Faked branded merchadise is still being imported into the UAE and sold in the local market. These products are attractive to some consumers because of a popular brand being sold at a much lower price than the original. In many cases, the consumer cannot distinguish between the real thing and the fake and is simply enticed by the price.
What we need to do is stop these products from entering the UAE while at the same time tightening and enforcing our copyright laws.