Fortnum & Mason open first branch in Qatar

Fortnum & Mason, one of London’s most prominent and prestigious department stores is opening its first branch in Qatar ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Located at the heart of Lusail City, the Parisian-inspired mall is Qatar’s latest retail destination, and is set to open its doors to shoppers on Friday 15 April.

The premium retail outlet will open in the new Place Vendome Qatar Mall which is due to open in Lusail this weekend. It comes as a collaboration with a local business partner, and will have a cafe that will sell a variety of items, including zero-alcohol sparkling tea and premium chocolates.

Fortnum & Mason is known for its main store at 181 Piccadilly in London, which has been in business for over 300 years. It is one of the most well-known retail establishments in the world, with royal warrants from The Queen and The Prince of Wales.

The announcement of the new store was followed by concerns over Qatar’s human rights records, especially concerning migrant workers in the country. “All of those issues are hugely important to us, whether or not that is worker welfare or gender equality,” said Chief Executive Tom Athron.

He also asserted that the partnership was approached the same as any other, and that on their part, they make sure that there is a “clear code of practice” in regards to those concerns. “If we just take Qatar, what they say is, they’re very welcoming of everyone, but they just ask that people respect their laws and customs when they’re in their country, and that’s the same as anywhere else,” said Athron.

Fortnum & Mason’s international presence is limited. It operates three smaller stores in Beijing and one in Hong Kong. It also has partnerships in Australia and Japan. This won’t be its first presence in the Gulf. It briefly had a branch in Dubai. However, the store was closed in 2017.

Athron stated that he had no plans to open more stores, but that physical retail was “alive and kicking” in the Middle East, and that more branches may be opened if management thought they would be profitable. He highlighted that the company’s focus is still on growing its online operations.

The upmarket department store has customers from all over the world. Most prominently the United States, Europe, and the Middle East, particularly Qatar. The brand’s global prominence will be boosted by moving into Qatar ahead of the FIFA World Cup, which begins in November. The executives at the 300 year-old establishment have been in talks with potential franchise partners in the country since January 2022.

Fortnum & Mason’s business was severely hit during the pandemic’s early stages, causing it to lay off hundreds of employees, but it has since experienced tremendous development in its online business. “We’re having to increase some prices,” Athron said, adding that the cost of creating some Fortnum goods has increased between five and ten percent.

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