Mohamed Kattawala, group finance director at PAN Emirates, talks about the furniture market, e-commerce, challenges, and how to overcome them

What can you say about the current physical retail furniture market of the region?
The market at the minute is quite fragmented and challenging as we have a mix of expats that come from all around the world. Offering suitable products to each and everybody is challenging. Moreover, the market size does not show much year-on-year growth and it makes it even harder for players to retain their market share.

How is e-commerce affecting your business?
Undoubtedly, e-commerce has a positive impact on the market as it offers ease and convenience of shopping. It also has helped consumers become more aware of the latest trends, collections, offerings, compare prices and products, which as a result allows them to make a thoughtful decision. E-commerce and digital marketing have made communication between customer and retailer dynamic and strong. Since furniture and home decor is usually a high-involvement purchase, e-commerce helps customer to understand and trust the retailer better and check around the market and make their final decisions at any point due to the nature of our business impulsive buying reduced by commerce is rare. Hence, we take it as a helpful tool and additional service to our customers.

If you can divide, how much of the business comes from brick and mortar stores as compared to your website shopping?
The market has changed a lot over the years and we have seen a shift in consumer behaviour and purchase patterns. Currently, online shopping contributes to 5-7% of the total sales, and it is expected to rise to 15-20%. However, because furniture doesn’t involve compulsive buying decision, it won’t show drastic change but will upgrade connection with customers and keep them aware of the latest trend.

How important is the pricing of the products in your competitive field?
Pricing is the most important factor that attracts customers. Since they are aware of styles and prices available in the market, delivering value for money becomes the utmost priority; keeping this in mind, we ensure that our prices are justifiable and competitive.

Can you tell us about the challenges you face and what lacks in this sector presently?
These days we see a lot of delusional marketing offered by retailers in the market, which is often misleading for the consumers. To beat these challenges, we practice transparency while dealing with our customers and ensure that there are minimum terms and conditions and no hidden charges. Be it our offer or be it any policy, we are always focussing to surround and the customer’s best interest.

What are you doing to enhance the customer experience in stores?
We regularly keep updating our store layout to offer a clear and wide unhindered vision of all the products. Our latest advancements include the introduction of click and collect service, where consumers can buy a product online and can collect it from the nearest store. Apart from that, our well-trained staff and customer service department ensures customer satisfaction. Also, our social media team actively maintains smooth communication with consumers.

How important is logistics for the retail sector?
Logistics is the pulse of the retail sector. Delivering on time can bring the widest smile on our consumer’s face, and that’s why our diligent logistics team is always active. We ensure product delivery with 5-7 days of purchase, which is unlike any of our competitors. We have measurably expanded our warehouse to accommodate a huge amount of products and keep up with the orders. Additionally, we are continually expanding to be easily accessible.