TEA LOLLIPOPS SAUCE
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Sauce, Dubai. Online spaces have become rudiment to retail strategy

Growing up in Lebanon during the civil war, co-founder Ghandour’s childhood informs Sauce’s philosophy. «I had to put my battle shoes on when the retail markets changed in Dubai»

Founded by Zayan Ghandour and Fatima Ghobash, the Sauce, Dubai opened its doors in 2004. The name is a representation of their product curation. «Sauce in the dictionary means, ‘zest, flavor, and piquancy’. That is what our brand’s dresses, accessories and products would do for your wardrobe, home and lifestyle». Situated in six hotels across Dubai, the concept store started as an answer to what was lacking in the country’s retail market. «At the time, the competition was minimal. The multi-brand concept wasn’t in existence, in Dubai or within the region». Sauce offers womenswear, menswear and children’s wear; selling designer garments, jewelry, accessories and trinkets. «We support and bring products that people would not come across every day. The element of discovery is vital to our curation». Growing up in Lebanon during the civil war, co-founder Ghandour’s childhood informs Sauce’s philosophy. «We have a defiance to charge through. My upbringing came in when the market conditions changed and competition grew. I had to put my battle shoes on when the retail markets changed in Dubai, we had to focus».

Sauce’s beginnings were in shopping malls, The Village and Dubai mall. The boutiques’ move to a hotel space came after a business trough. «We were going through the restructuring of the company and seeing what concepts we were keeping and dropping. We did not approach the hotel, the hotels approached us. We were not equipped for projects but at one point we concurred». The store’s Four Seasons Jumeirah branch fills a space of 280-square feet. Expansions to locations have to be planned. «When we opened in the Four Seasons Jumeirah, there was a lack of space, but six months down the line, they closed off a corridor to give us space». Ghandour reveals that business has ameliorated since the transition where the brand’s responsibility to provide essentials like swimming goggles to hotel guests has abetted their organization. «Four Seasons is one of the locations that has worked for us because of its guests. They are looking for products, design, or jewelry day and night. We have shifted our focus to a specialty where we have become a luxury-supermarket within a hotel. There is a demand for what hotel guests require when they are on the beach, we bring a design element to this request». In the digital age, Ghandour highlights online spaces have become rudiment to retail strategy and the idea of flagship stores has lapsed. They are privy to what their customers want. «I wouldn’t say we have a flagship. It helps you get to know what your customer wants; you can cater that to them online. We used to have a flagship store in Dubai mall, but the concept is obsolete». The boutique combines designer labels with whimsy. «You will know that you are in a Sauce store when you walk in. We have something called tea lollipops. It is a tea infusion with honey that comes as a lollipop, when added to water, it forms a concoction of tea, honey and flowers in your cup». Ghandour sells her namesake collection alongside a resort and beachwear line. «We will have them online and in store, but we will have segregated products that will be made for the e-store». Sourcing for products and designers, the brand receives pitches from talents through their emails, «if there is something we can do with a designer, we will consider it, but if we see an artist’s oeuvre that fits our style, we will contact them». Not limiting themselves to Dubai-based artists, the store manages to retain a sense of the city by finding up-and-coming designers with a story they can link to Dubai. Mentoring designers, Ghandour and partner Ghobash cover rent, overheads and expenses. «We put our trust in young-designers by giving them shelf space. We prioritize independent-brands and artists whose vision adds to our curation process to set us apart from our competitors». To helpdesigners succeed commercially, the partners offer advice to point the designer in the direction of Sauce’s market and customer requirements. «It is about trial and error». Items produced need to emit a sense that is in resonance with Sauce, «for our jewelry store, products can be usual – we adjust those to add a quirk. It has to have a story».

sauce four seasons
Sauce at Four Seasons, Dubai

From business returning to usual and sales surpassing expectations, the store updates their inventory daily to meet their customer needs from the family-oriented to the party-oriented. An answer to their boutique size, the inventory replenishes guarantee products are allocated suitably. «When we opened in the Four Seasons, we did not expect the turnover to show results like we did in malls. To our surprise, there have been achievements for our products. Buying is not the process of putting through the order, but about the research and contacting. It’s called designing. It is not the inventory, but the process of buying that takes us time». Sauce’s clientele is one for the tourists. Ghandour has curated a collection of designer brands, resort-wear, swimwear to satisfy her customers on vacation. «Over the past two years, we have shifted our focus. Being in a luxury hotel, our clients are on holiday – we are not selling them products, we are giving them the experience of being on vacation». Sauce is firm that holidays are what their customers want and their products meet those needs. Sauce aspires for their hotel stores to aid visitors in learning about the country’s taste, style and history through the brands showcased in the shop. «Our clients love variety and through these channels, we provide for an international customer-base whom we can maintain for when we release our online collections». They do not produce three samples but one. Expanding on their sustainable practices, Ghandour shares, «Over 10 years of business, we have learned about what matters and that every bit counts which is why we are not wasting fabric and money». As Covid-19 has put travel to a halt, the sauce team has reduced their carbon footprint, «we are not traveling and showrooms and trade shows are online». At a time of shut borders and empty hotels, the team at Sauce sought to be present for their customers. They carried out trials for means of communication and presence to their customers by providing videos and social media content. «When the hotels closed down for four to five weeks, everybody was saying that hospitality, tourism, and aviation industries were going to be in trouble and we thought it was the end. But the sales were happening on social media. That is when we saw our views skyrocket online. We started doing web content and while there were no seats in store, we were captivating our audience by creating content in lockdown». Having re-opened stores weeks ago, Sauce is seeing a tourism and sales boom. Ghandour claims there has been 90% occupancy in hotels from foreign tourists. Ghandour describes the United Arab Emirates as diligent, «there is no panic in the moment which is crucial when you are running a business or a country». Taking a page out of Dubai’s book, Sauce expects to follow suit with the momentum of the city.

«We are cautious but optimistic with ideas and concepts that will help us forge ahead. We expand with the vision of the city we’re in. We do see our sales growing in hotels. We will see what the future has in store, but we are not going to be sitting still». The store is based in six locations across six hotels in the United Arab Emirates. These hotels include Four Seasons Jumeirah, Four Seasons DIFC, W Hotel the Palm Jumeirah, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Jumeirah Saadiyat Island and The Galleria Mall.

IMAGE GALLERY

Sauce
Lower Ground Lobby
The Four Seasons Resort
Jumeirah Beach Road
Dubai

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