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Saudi online retail market heats up with Noon.com launch

LONDON: The online “Arabic-first” shopping platform Noon.com has launched in Saudi Arabia, aiming to carve out a share in what is still a relatively nascent market for e-commerce.
Noon is a joint venture between Emaar Properties chairman Mohamed Alabbar, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and the Kuwaiti franchise operator MH Alshaya. It initially launched in the UAE in October. The Saudi market offers significant growth potential to online retailers, analysts say, given the low proportion of the population who regularly shop on the internet rather than in the Kingdom’s shopping malls.
“KSA is a key market for online retail,” said Euromonitor analyst Rabia Yasmeen, adding that the online share of the total Saudi retail market is around 1.4 percent.
Norma Taki, head of retail at PwC Middle East, added: “Our 2017 Total Retail survey results show that 27 percent of shoppers in KSA like to shop online monthly versus 45 percent who shop only a few times a year.
“This highlights that there is a huge opportunity for market entrants such as Noon.com to come in and capitalize on the young population and the tech-savvy end consumer the KSA market has to offer.”
Noon went live at midday on Dec. 12. It is headquartered in Riyadh and offers products across a wide range of sectors including beauty, fashion, electronics, home and kitchen and groceries. Shoppers can make purchases online or via a downloadable app.
“Noon brings a dynamic, locally-driven and customer-oriented digital marketplace to the Kingdom serving the community and offering a new retail and much-improved experience,” said the founder of Noon, Mohamed Alabbar.
“With talented young Saudis driving its operations, along with being powered by Saudi and regional retailers showcasing their amazing products, the platform also offers Saudi entrepreneurs, including startups, to be part of a fast-growing digital ecosystem.”
Noon will be a competitor to Souq.com, which was acquired by global online giant Amazon in March. Souq already operates in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Egypt.
This month Souq launched Amazon Global Store, which allows customers in the UAE to purchase products from the US-based Amazon.
The Middle East is set to be one of the fastest-growing regions globally for e-commerce, according to BMI Research. It predicted sales to double to at least $48.8 billion by 2021, in a research note published in September.
This growth is partly due to the high proportion of young consumers, BMI said, with all the Middle Eastern countries it ranks having more than 30 percent of its population aged between 20 and 39 years old.
The UAE still dominates the regional online market, it said, with and sales in the UAE will reach $9.7 billion in 2017, rising to $23.3 billion by 2021.

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