Retail leaders gather in Riyadh for consumer industries summit

The summit takes place in a rapidly changing retail and consumer landscape in the Middle East. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 10 February 2020

Retail leaders gather in Riyadh for consumer industries summit

  • The two-day event is being held in Saudi Arabia for the first time
  • Some 1,500 delegates will hear plenary sessions and roundtables involving more than 50 speakers, and take part in exhibitions

Policymakers, executives and global business experts will gather in Riyadh on Monday for the opening of the Retail Leaders Circle Summit for the Middle East and North Africa. The two-day event — “committed to provide the world’s retailers, brand owners and suppliers with the intellectual and social capital they need to succeed” — is being held in Saudi Arabia for the first time. 

It aims to “activate a much-needed dialogue to explore the changing retail and consumer landscape in Saudi Arabia and the broader region,” according to the official website. The event is being held under the patronage of Majid Abdullah Al-Qasabi, the Kingdom’s minister of commerce and investment, in partnership with Invest Saudi, part of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority. 
Some 1,500 delegates will hear plenary sessions and roundtables involving more than 50 speakers, and take part in exhibitions and networking at the Fairmont hotel in the Saudi capital. Headline partners include corporate Fawaz Alhokair, the Saudi Telecom Co., Visa and Microsoft. Other top-level partners include Chalhoub Group, Facebook, McKinsey & Co. and IKEA. Arab News is the strategic media partner for the event.
The summit takes place in a rapidly changing retail and consumer landscape in the Kingdom and the Middle East. Consumer spending is on the increase after several years of restraint linked to concerns about energy revenues and government expenditure, but the coronavirus outbreak in China has again cast a shadow over the health of demand in international energy markets.
At the same time, the impetus given to consumer spending in Saudi Arabia by the Vision 2030 strategy has thrust the sector into the forefront of policymakers’ thinking. The big population and youthful demographic in the Kingdom makes it a leader in the regional retail industry.
The retail and consumer sectors are also facing changing internal dynamics with the growth of online shopping in the e-commerce revolution, set against an accelerated program of mall openings as Saudi shoppers look for entertainment and relaxation options in the food and beverage sectors. 
In a survey of consumer sentiment to be released on the opening day of the summit, consultants McKinsey said consumer sentiment is improving for the first time in five years in the region, especially among Saudis, who are upbeat about the economy, with 45 percent giving positive survey responses. Only 38 percent of consumers feel economic pressure today, and 36 percent feel it will increase next year.
But the “new normal” in the industry is confirmed, with consumers still very cautious about spending and seeing value for money, McKinsey said.


Work begins on project to document all aspects of Saudi art and culture across the Kingdom

Updated 27 min 38 sec ago

Work begins on project to document all aspects of Saudi art and culture across the Kingdom

  • The project is believed to be the first of its kind in the Kingdom in terms of exhaustiveness and diversity

RIYADH: Work has started on an ambitious initiative to document all aspects of Saudi culture across the Kingdom’s 13 regions. With its “13/16” project, the Ministry of Culture aims to highlight the nation’s cultural diversity and rich heritage by constructing a record of all forms of local art and culture.

The project, which includes the establishment of a visual library of cultural activity recorded in photographs and videos, is believed to be the first of its kind in the Kingdom in terms of exhaustiveness and diversity.

Teams of researchers familiar with 16 identified aspects of Saudi culture will visit all 13 regions — hence the name of the project — to photograph and film artists and creators and their work. The art forms and cultural activities in each distinct society that will be documented include theater, music, film, performing arts, literature, visual arts, architectural design, heritage and language.

The ministry has drawn up a year-long research plan covering all Saudi regions. It will begin in Riyadh region and end in the Eastern Province, passing through Jizan, Makkah, Al-Jawf, the Northern Borders, Qassim, Hail, Asir, Al-Baha, Najran and Madinah along the way.