Talking shop

Strategic thinking is more important than ever in the Middle East IT and electronics retail business. But despite a spate of high-profile store openings, including one in the new Dubai Mall, Peter McElwaine, CEO at Jumbo Electronics, is more concerned with ensuring the company keeps a firm eye on service.

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By  Julian Pletts Published  January 11, 2009

Strategic thinking is more important than ever in the Middle East IT and electronics retail business. But despite a spate of high-profile store openings, including one in the new Dubai Mall, Peter McElwaine, CEO at Jumbo Electronics, is more concerned with ensuring the company keeps a firm eye on service.

What have been the highlights during your first six months as CEO at Jumbo?

It has been very interesting and I couldn't have come at a better time.

We do need to get more aggressive at this time and I think this transformation of moving to malls means we will review the performance of some of our older and more small-end stores.

The business has been running successfully for a number of years now and this year's performance to date has been better than expected, although of course everyone knows that the world has changed quite a bit over the last couple of months, and nobody is really sure how that is going to impact us.

There has been a general march forward in our IT business during the first 10 months of last year and we have actually topped the AED1 billion (US$272m) sales mark, which is a record for Jumbo Electronics.

This represents a 40% growth on 2007 and our overall group has grown in top-line terms by 35% on last year.

Jumbo Electronics has traditionally been seen in the Middle East as a Sony-focused company. Is this a perception you are keen to continue cultivating?

Obviously we are very proud of our relationship with Sony and it is a well documented fact that Mr Chhabria, who founded Jumbo, did so in partnership with Sony, so our relationship goes back 34 years. Jumbo equals Sony and Sony equals Jumbo as far as this part of the world is concerned.

Does this situation prejudice the relationships that you have with other vendors?  After all, Jumbo now stocks products from a variety of IT and consumer electronics brands.

Within the consumer electronics field, we don't really deal with other vendors, it is pretty much an exclusive relationship. When we move into the field of IT or telecom then that is a different story altogether. It works very well.

How much do you feel Jumbo heeds the call of vendors to provide retail value add? Is it a realistic request or is the business simply about shifting large volumes?

I think the whole thing has shifted to value add. Our consumer electronics business was founded on small retail outlets and the distributed dealer environment.

That has fundamentally changed and if you look at the growth of the power retailers, they are not yet dominating, but are shortly to dominate the entire retail environment.

That has changed the whole landscape completely. Dubai is at the forefront of this.

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