In conversation with Rasool Taj, Head of Buying and Merchandising at DWELL/Liwa Trading Enterprises LLC, about the brands she works for, retail challenges, and trends she is most excited about.
What are your responsibilities as Head of Buying and Merchandising?
As the Head of Buying and Merchandising for Liwa’s home brands Dwell and Simply Kitchen, I work with a team that designs, sources, develops products for our brands and then gets it to market and ensures we trade the product in the most commercial way. Between both brands – Dwell and Simply Kitchen – we cover everything for every room and my main responsibility is to ensure that our brands deliver the budgets, strategy set, and most importantly meet the needs of our customers.
I oversee the whole business, but I am very much involved in the detail of everything from colours on bedding to the brands we will be launching in our stores.
Dwell and Simply Kitchen are extremely different brands; how do you manage the sourcing of both?
They are completely different brands with different customer profiles and very different ranges, but that is the challenge we love to tackle everyday. I feel like both brands together create the whole home and there is so much opportunity to try different styles and designs as we aim to have something that suits everyone’s tastes. For me I love products regardless of what it is, from a lemon squeezer to a plush sofa. I love the whole process of bringing a concept to life regardless of what the product is. Personally, I love home products and I love retail so for me it is just the opportunity to have a variety of different products that we can develop and source from different parts of the world and bring to the market here in the UAE.
What makes you so passionate about interiors?
The thought of the product we have created and developed being in people’s homes and knowing that we have been part of designing a beautiful space is an honor and a privilege. Every person will create their look differently and will project one’s tastes into their home and knowing that we are part of that process is awesome. I can’t help but be passionate about the whole process.
You have a strong business acumen. How crucial is affordability to the success of any brand?
We all want something that is special, different, and unique, but we also have budget constraints, responsibilities and a cap on what we can spend on items. We consider this in everything we do; we want to give our customers something that is desirable but also of great quality and a fair price. We are very aware of the market that we are in and that there are many players that do a great job.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
I like to think that I put everything into what we do and when things don’t go to plan or we have ranges that don’t perform, I take it quite hard. This is part and parcel of the retail business but is something I find hard to deal with. On the face of it and to the teams I will still be positive and move forward but cannot help feeling the niggle inside that it wasn’t quite right.
What interior design trends are you most excited about?
I love the sustainability angle of products and products that have a story of how they came about. We have just launched a range of candles exclusively at Dwell and the candle vessels are made from construction waste in the UAE, so low carbon footprint, with soy wax. Once you are done burning them, they can be brought back to us so we can refill, or you can use them as a décor item within your home.
Do you prefer the brick-and-mortar idea or e-commerce for your brands?
There is no denying the convenience and the ability to buy “when you want, where you want” is a huge draw to e-commerce. We want to be able to offer that to our customers and are constantly trying to create a seamless experience from store to online and vice-versa. However, it is hard to replicate the ability to touch and feel our product and we have a product that needs to be sat on, picked up, and touched to communicate its quality and design. I love to see the reaction of our customers when they feel our 100% Italian made 300 thread count sheets (they really are amazingly soft and luxurious) and you can actually see when they get the ‘ahhh’ moment, that ‘I just have to have these’ moment and that for me is a huge buzz.
Is there anything exciting in the pipeline you would like to share?
We are going through a huge growth and will have just shy of 30 stores by the end of the year. These stores will have products we have never had before and products you can buy exclusively from us. The store at City Centre Mirdif that just opened has our full range across bed, bath, home décor and furniture and is our biggest store to date. As well as showcasing all our ranges across categories, it also has brand new destination spaces for rugs, lighting and is the only place in the UAE where you can pick your wallpapers and walk out with them, exclusively with us from the UK.
We are doing exciting things with customisation, and you can create bespoke furniture, where you can pick everything from the size, fabric, feet to have it personalised with your name should you wish! That is just the beginning.