Chalhoub Group launches joint venture with Duval Union Consulting

22 January 2018 6 min. read
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Award-winning luxury retailer Chalhoub Group has forged a partnership with Belgian consultancy Duval Union Consulting. The agreement sees the two companies launch a joint venture which will serve the entire Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

With what started over 60 years ago with the opening of a boutique in Damascus by founder Michel Chalhoub, the Chalhoub Group has now grown into one of the leading luxury retailers in the Middle East, particularly strong in the beauty, fashion and gifts sectors. The company’s workforce of more than 12,000 people, the majority of which work across a network of over 650 retail stores, serve clients in 14 countries. Alongside fully owned concept stores, Chalhoub Group has joint ventures with among others Louis Vuitton, Dior Couture, Sephora, Louboutin and Berlutti, and franchise agreements with the likes of Saks Fifth Avenue, Loewe, Carolina Herrera, Swarovski, Lacoste and Michael Kors. 

In recent years, Chalhoub Group has increasingly been embracing digitisation – one of the key trends that is transforming the face of the luxury sector. According to data from Bain & Company, the global market for luxury goods is worth €1.2 trillion globally, with the segment for personal luxury goods accounting for roughly one-fifth of the total. Digital is earmarked as the key trend for 2018 and beyond: the relentless march toward e-commerce continues, with online sales jumping by 24% in 2017 to reach an overall market share of 9%, and in addition brands and retailers will need to digitise their offerings to meet the changing demands of customers, including the rapidly expanding ‘millenial’ client base. 

Luxury retailer Chalhoub Group is eyeing digital transformation to boost its services

Against the backdrop, Chalhoub’s management team in recent years have significantly ramped up their investments into digital, with Patrick Chalhoub, co-CEO of the Dubai-headquartered Group (the other co-CEO being his brother Anthony Chalhoub), stating; “As a luxury retailer we want to grasp the opportunity of digitisation to optimally connect with our customer.” 

While deliberating on what it meant to be a truly digital company, and how to get there, the Chalhoub brothers stumbled upon Duval Union Consulting, a consulting firm based in Belgium that specialises in digital transformation. The two co-founders of the consultancy, Dado Van Peteghem and Jo Caudron, are the authors of the book ‘Digital transformation – Prepare your organisation for the future’ (first edition launched in 2013; now being sold in over 55 countries), and having read the book, the Chalhoubs invited the two Belgians for a presentation.

The firm’s vision on digital transformation, coupled with no-nonsense approach, was appreciated by the Arabs, after which Chalhoub Group in March last year tapped the consultancy to support with the development of its digital agenda. “We have been working with luxury player Chalhoub Group in Dubai on their digital transformation,” said Van Peteghem, with Patrick Chalhoub in retrospect highlighting the important role the consultants have played. “Duval Union Consulting has been of great help for us in building our strategy, digital agenda and team for transformation.”

New joint venture

Building on the successful collaboration, Chalhoub Group and Duval Union Consulting have decided to expand their cooperation through the launch of a consulting joint venture. The new operation will from Dubai support clients with digital transformation across the MENA region, with a focus on the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, but also cover Oman, Lebanon, India, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. “It’s a great honor to set up this partnership with Chalhoub Group. This is a new chapter for Duval Union Consulting – the team deserve a great compliment for their entrepreneurial mindset and their unconditional drive,” remarked Van Peteghem.

Patrick Chalhoub, Anthony Chalhoub, Dado Van Peteghem, Jo Caudron

He added, “A lot of people look at the US and Asia when it comes to digital transformation, but we underestimate what is happening in the Middle East. There is already a lot going on about innovation and technology.” 

With teams of five to ten advisors, Chalhoub Group – Duval Union Consulting Middle East will help companies assess the impact of digital on their industry and company, review where the largest opportunities areas are, and help them gain insight into how technology can be leveraged to craft a competitive edge. Implementation support is also part of the offerings mix, as those embracing digital typically embark on a new type of change, one that benefits from expertise and guidance. 

To kick start the joint venture, Nick Vinckier has been appointed Chief Strategy of the Middle East operations and as part of his new mandate has relocated from Belgium to Dubai. The young consultant, who is also a fervent blogger and social media storyteller, has been with Duval Union Consulting since 2014, the year he graduated from university.

Patrick Chalhoub concluded; “We strongly believe this structural partnership will allow us to learn and benefit from each other in this exciting and rapidly evolving market.”

The market entry of Duval Union Consulting into Dubai comes at a time of growing interest from global consultancies in the Middle East market. While the likes of McKinsey, BCG and Bain have been around for a long time, last year French-advisory group Accuracy expanded into Dubai with the opening of a new office, while last month Sia Partners, another French-origin consultancy, ramped up its size in the region with the acquisition of local management consultancy ShiftIN Partners.