Since its inception 40 years ago, Etoile Group has carved out a niche in the Middle East’s retail market and today they are a boutique firm with dedicated personnel equipped with expertise and a personalised approach appertaining to coveted luxury fashion and lifestyle brands. Here, RLI spends some time with Ingie Chalhoub, Founder & President of Etoile Group to speak about the evolution of the business.
Driven by a passion for fashion and art, Ingie Chalhoub has always worked hard to achieve her goals – combining her creative and business skills. When planning the next steps for the company, she continues to truly believe in listening to her intuition and this is something that has been engrained in her throughout the Etoile Group journey which began back in 1983 when she was the first to introduce French luxury brands to the region.
In the last four decades as a pioneer in luxury fashion, Ingie has built the reputation of Etoile by understanding her clients’ expectations, listening to their needs and ensuring she creates memorable experiences through moments of personal discovery.
Today, Etoile Group represents over 50 high-end brands within their multi-brand Etoile La Boutique stores, which were the first of their kind in the region and introduced brands and represented them across the whole region with exclusive products. The company also works with the best in luxury fashion including Chanel, Valentino, Etro, Aquazzura, Ralph Lauren, Tod’s, Yamamay and Hogan.
“It is not so much about the number of brands or stores, for us what is more important is the quality and value of our partnerships and – looking ahead – the expansion by the brand and the development plans we are undertaking,” explains Ingie Chalhoub, Founder & President Etoile Group. “Etoile Group has been able to place each of these premium brands’ growth in the region on an upward trend throughout the course of our partnerships with them, assisting them in reaching new markets and gaining access to new client demographics.”
Last year was a strong one for the Group as it achieved double-digit growth, even eclipsing their own projections. They on-boarded new brands to broaden their portfolio and they launched boutiques in new and existing locations, improving accessibility to and increasing the awareness of their brands.
To continue this momentum, there are ambitious yet attainable plans for 2023 and 2024. Ingie feels that making smart investments in the Group’s physical presence over the next two years, will drive further growth and success.
As part of this continued expansion strategy, they now have 60 projects in progress or planned for the future. This includes renovating existing boutiques to improve the experience for their clients, as well as opening new boutiques to reach new markets and audiences.
“Our focus today is on the Gulf Cooperation Council nations. This is our home market and I believe that our customer understanding and client relationships are unmatched. This region not only delivers strong returns for us today, but also continues to offer significant growth potential. That’s why, in the coming months, we will be opening new boutiques in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait, as well as reopening boutiques in Lebanon,” Ingie highlights.
The focus of Etoile Group has always been on providing a very high level of personalised service and unmatched attention. By offering a concierge-like service, the company has built strong relationships with its clientele over generations. By investing in these deep connections, they were able to grow the business during Covid-19, as they made home visits to their clients, sharing hand-picked collections that reflected their clients’ individual sense of style and aesthetics.
As well as continuing this level of personal engagement today, they are also investing in highly effective customer relationship management tools, which allow businesses across the Group to further enhance their interactions with clients. This helps them to increase their collective understanding of customer preferences and feedback, to then provide an even more bespoke experience. They are also firm believers that their ongoing investment in long-term partnerships is what has helped convert their clientele into brand ambassadors who help to tell the Etoile story.
With a greater importance placed on sustainability than ever before, Ingie feels that brands understand the need to embed sustainability into their business models, as consumers grow more conscious of the environmental and social effects of their purchasing decisions.
“At Etoile Group, we have taken a sustainable approach across our head office and boutiques and prioritise procurement from partners and suppliers that are compliant with the rules of the Fashion Pact, a global initiative that was launched in 2019 and is aimed at reducing the fashion industry’s environmental impact. I also strongly believe that there is an intrinsic commitment to sustainability in luxury fashion. Whether this is in preservation of craftsmanship and artisanal skills or in the production of quality fabrics and materials, luxury fashion and design is about creating collections and pieces that can be passed down through generations. It is the antithesis of fast fashion.”
When presented with the question of what she considers to be the main reasons behind the success and longevity of Etoile Group, Ingie responds by saying this is due to the expertise and hard work of the people they employ. She goes on to say that perseverance and diligence when combined produce a culture that propels the Group to success.
“In terms of what lies ahead, I have great expectations. With an aggressive plan to double Etoile Group’s revenue by 2025, we have multiple plans and projects in the works, including launching more boutiques, acquiring new brands and venturing into new markets,” explains Ingie.
She concludes the interview by saying the Middle East’s luxury retail industry has a bright future and will continue to be influenced by factors such as the region’s growing e-commerce and digital channel adoption, the demand for sustainable and ethical luxury goods and the growth of the luxury travel industry.
“Etoile Group is embracing these trends and is eager to further solidify its position as an ambassador of luxury fashion expertise and excellence.”