Re-Envisioning the World of Eyewear
MAGRABi Retail Group is the regional leader in eyewear, extending unparalleled experiences to clients through unique retail concepts, world-class optical services and a diverse product portfolio. In this interview RLI spends some time with company CEO Yasser Taher to learn more about how at MAGRABI, eye care is both a science and an art.
For over 95 years, the MAGRABi Retail Group has been leading the innovations in eye care and eyewear while consistently challenging the boundaries. Since the opening of the first MAGRABi clinic back in 1927, MAGRABi has made state-of-the-art eye care their purpose, later evolving to marry social purpose with avant-garde style.
Today, the company operates in five countries across the Middle East and its growing portfolio includes MAGRABi, as the largest luxury eyewear chain in the region, as well as the lifestyle chain Doctor M, multiple owned brands and a robust wholesale and distribution arm.
The first MAGRABi store opened its doors in 1981, in connection with the local MAGRABi Eye Hospital and today the retail network consists of more than 140 outlets and a growing omni-channel presence. The business operates 100 stores in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 23 in the UAE, 20 in Egypt, 13 in Qatar and six in Kuwait. In the first 100 days of 2023 alone, the company opened 20 new stores, 10 MAGRABi sites and 10 Doctor M locations.
Recently the Group inaugurated its own state-of-the-art lens manufacturing facility in Dubai, the ‘Lens Innovation Center’ (LIC), which serves as the largest in the region and supplies all of its stores. To help provide eyewear solutions to match modern lifestyles, the Group currently employs over 1,500 experts who are dedicated to this goal.
“Looking forward, we are partnering with our key stakeholders for major activations and unique products and brand offerings over the coming year,” explains Yasser Taher, CEO of MAGRABi Retail Group. “These include an exclusive Dolce & Gabbana campaign, a collaboration between Disney and MAGRABi for the 100th anniversary and a partnership with Gucci for an exclusive Dubai Mall store opening in either Q3 or Q4 of this year.”
In addition, they will be focusing on uplifting two key areas within the business – coloured contact lenses and accessories.
“With the belief we have in the five markets we operate in, we have aspirations to grow to 300 stores, achieving this by opening 50 stores a year across both banners – the luxury chain MAGRABi and the lifestyle chain Doctor M. Over the next three years we will be investing $100M across 200 stores. Currently our LIC facility has a capacity of one million lenses per year, operating 24/7 and we aim to double this to two million lenses per year by 2025,” explains Taher.
While they have recently launched their lifestyle banner Doctor M, the business remains open to other banners in the future, but for now Taher explains that their key focus is on consolidating their leadership position in the Middle East, with a view to international expansion in the future.
MAGRABi’s brick-and-mortar sites are unique and they appeal to their clients because their in-person stores allow them to integrate MAGRABi’s DNA into their service. Not only do they strive to deliver unparalleled customer service, utilising thousands of data points to create trends rather than react to them, but they think it is of paramount importance to show customers what it truly means to shop at MAGRABi – and that is to offer a people-first approach.
“We also use thousands of data points to drive our customer service strategy and ensure we deliver what customers want. Our data suggests the younger consumer population is growing across the region, particularly in Saudi Arabia, which is why we launched a huge campaign at the beginning of May to appeal to this segment of consumers and invested significantly in growing Doctor M,’s presence across the region,” Taher comments.
As the topic of conversation moves onto social media and enhanced digital strategies, Taher highlights that these platforms are a voice for the group and all their own brands. He continues by saying that they empower their main Group page and support their own brands independently with a dedicated social media team.
“We believe that in the future bricks-and-mortar and online will not be spoken about as two separate offerings, but as one fluid, hybrid experience. E-commerce becomes a vehicle to interact with consumers, rather than just a transactional site and will merge with the physical store and become an integral part of our customer experience.”
The company’s fusion of science and art has revolutionised the optical market in the Middle East and its latest developments continue its track record of innovation and pioneering achievements.
Technology plays a pivotal role in determining their strategy. They take a data driven approach to customer service, allowing them to react quickly to new trends and in January 2022 they opened their LIC. It serves both the Group’s banners and uses next-generation technology consisting of cognitive machines, built-in quality control and intelligent systems. The centre is the most advanced lab in the Middle East, partnering with Schneider Optical, a leading manufacturer of the state-of-the-art ophthalmic lens machinery and equipment.
Discussing the ethos of the company, Taher explains that MAGRABi believes in a culture that empowers people, businesses and the industry to be creative, innovative and break the glass ceiling. They are re-envisioning the world of eyewear to empower the lifestyles of millions. He goes on to say that the eyewear industry is already well-established and it is about taking that and reimagining the whole industry, moving it further into a lifestyle experience, not only for Dubai, the UAE or Middle East, but also for the world.
“We believe that if you do not have a progressive culture, if you do not have a diversified culture and if you do not have a culture of equality, you will never get anywhere. Gender equality is something we are passionate about and our target is ambitious not just in the Middle East, but also by global standards. We have set ground-breaking targets for gender equality and fair practices, including the ambitious goal of 50/50 gender equality throughout, from board to shop floor, by 2025. Our dedicated team is what makes MAGRABi and we are thankful to all those who support us in transforming the optical industry in the Middle East.”
Before our time is up we ask Yasser one final question, what lies ahead for the business?
“This year marks the start of a new chapter for MAGRABi and as CEO I intend to drive the Group’s transformation to position it as a world-class leader in its category and into the next phase of its journey. I pay tribute to Amin for bringing MAGRABi so far and accelerating our growth so effectively in the past 20 years and I am honoured to be the first non-family member CEO.”