Synonymous with the fragrance business in Kuwait, the Beidoun family have been at the heart of Kuwait’s luxury and lifestyle sector for almost 60 years. Since Zouheir J. Beidoun first opened Prince Store in Fahad Al-Salem Street in 1961, Beidoun has led the way in sourcing the most desirable brands, as one of the most renowned beauty, cosmetic and luxury retail chains in Kuwait. Today, Jamil Z. Beidoun upholds this legacy as the company’s CEO.
Our Zeina Mokaddam sat with Jamil to learn more about the past, present, and future of Beidoun, as well as to uncover a little of what makes this man tick.
Who are the Beidouns?
Established in 1961, Beidoun Trading Company was founded by Zouheir J. Beidoun with visionary stance and unwavering determination to revolutionize beauty and fashion in Kuwait.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Jamil Z. Beidoun pursues an ongoing venture to maintain and expand new and thriving business partnerships. Ones that will continue to furnish customers with premium brands, tailor-made services, and delightful shopping experiences in stores. Beidoun Trading Company’s notable reputation was charged through Jamil’s leadership and Suzy Z. Beidoun’s dedication and vision.
The third generation, Omar E. Beidoun and Zouheir J. Beidoun jr. adopted innovative work methodologies to further expand the business, concept stores, and boutiques as well as the Beidoun Online Store. Being the first online store to open in the region, beidounonline.com has become a pillar of style, quality and luxury through an outstanding customer service and a distinct selection of products from some of the world’s most prominent labels.
Today, Beidoun Trading Company, home of luxury, has 20 showrooms across Kuwait, flagship stores to exclusive concepts. A solid expansion that is built by strong partnerships with principals.
Jamil joined his father at Beidoun in 1977, fresh out of a Parisian college from where he graduated with a degree in business administration. A family emergency in 1981 led to his father being absent from Kuwait for a year, during which time the young Jamil was left with the sole reins of the company. It was, he recalls, “a great experience”. Since that period, he’s never stepped away from the company, formally running it since the mid-80s, and officially becoming CEO in 2008. Throughout, until today, he consults his father on corporate decisions.
What has shaped you and the company since 1961?
In 1961 our focus was solely on clothing. My father used to import French designer brands – at the time no one else here was doing that. So, when, a few years later, these brands started creating fragrances, it was natural for us to begin to import these too. Gradually, by 1967, we exited clothing and focused on fragrance. We became the distributors of both L’Oréal and Lancôme. When L’Oréal began to acquire leading fragrance brands – we added these to our portfolio too. We were there from the very beginning of the evolution of the fragrance and cosmetic sector into the form we see it today.
At that time, we only had one store – Prince Store on Fahad Al- Salem Street. To support our distributorships, we added an office above. As the business continued to grow, we took a warehouse.
You’ve added to your brands from outside the fragrance and cosmetic sector too?
Right. The second major event in the company is when we took on Cartier in 1968. This led us in a move towards the luxury business.
Everything was happening quickly at the time. I recall my father travelling to Paris monthly… the major European brands wanted a solid partner in this region.
Was it always smooth sailing?
Not always. The 1980s were very tough here. Think back and you’ll recall economic scandals and social instability. At the time, we were working ten hours a day just to maintain what we had! We lost Cartier – quite a set back to our company’s plan at the time. However, in 1988 we opened the first Beidoun Center in Sharq. This represented our first entry into retail – adding to our previously main role as distributor. This was the period that things
turned the corner, and we had a couple of good years – and then in 1990 we were hit by the invasion. I was out of Kuwait when it happened, but came back on 10 August and stayed here throughout.
Post-liberation saw new beginnings for Beidoun and Kuwait?
Well, in a sense. After liberation, due to the presence of a totally chaotic market, we couldn’t rely on securing a business based on distribution. Everything was a mess – people owed us money, they weren’t paying. No one knew who was who or what was what. There were debts mounting across the market. We took control of our destiny by opening our own store, and by going large. By 2000 we had around 24 shops and we were opening two or three shops a year as opportunities arose.
Tell us a little about Beidoun’s other partnerships and ventures
We’ve been distributor and retailer of Mont Blanc in Kuwait since 1993. It was a great time to join them – the growth it saw during the 90s, we were able to replicate locally. As they grew, we grew.
In 2009 we opened Parfumerie d’Exception – a niche fragrance business which has now grown to become three stores. It represented a significant investment at the time, and we brought in specialist management and conducted extensive research into the market. We launched the first store at a time when the concept was new in Europe too. At the time, everyone was a beginner at it! But, I saw potential in the business, a store for niche, specialist, and largely unknown fragrances.
Recently, there’s been a shift towards online retail. It remains a tiny proportion of our own business – stores and boutiques will remain key to our future – but we’re supplying many new startups in Kuwait. It is our policy to support youth in their entrepreneurial endeavours here. Perhaps we’re competing against ourselves in doing this, but it is more important to support what’s coming up as new, and the generation that is driving this.
What of the future?
Retail will continue to evolve, and always in unexpected ways – but we’ll remain on top of change and ahead of the game. For example, the opening of The Avenues completely shifted the market. Whereas the fragrance market was previously evenly dispersed across the nation, The Avenues interrupted all of this. Today, it represents 55% of Kuwait’s sales in our sector. It’s huge – almost too powerful. We have to remain aware of change, and adapt ourselves to it.
Getting to know Jamil Beidoun
What are your best three qualities?
Patience, the willingness to listen, and adventurousness
What characteristics you most deplore in others?
Lying, and showing off
What catches your eye?
What inspires your curiosity?
What makes you afraid?
What is your most treasured possession?
My gun collection
What is the most expensive thing you’ve bought?
What is your favourite travel destination?
My cottage in the Lebanese mountains
What is your definition of happiness?
To work where you enjoy your work
Your motto in life?
Enjoy your life to the full