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.