Saudi Arabia has long been among the wealthiest nations in the world; today, it also is becoming one of the fastest growing consumer markets. In particular, Saudi women seek access to trendy fashion, jewelry, and lingerie options that might be found in any mall in the Western world. But because of the strict cultural norms and religious dictates that inform Saudi society, retailing looks a bit different. For example, all lingerie stores and departments within stores are staffed solely by women. Whereas previously only Saudi men would work in such positions, female sales clerks also are more in demand for various retail settings, reflecting the rules that mandate women may not speak to men who are not members of their families. Women also are discouraged from displaying their faces publicly, a rule that some retailers have interpreted as a reason to rely on headless mannequins when displaying women’s clothing in stores. Marketing communications, such as advertising and catalogs, also need to be redesigned to coincide with the Kingdom’s rules, such that models are not shown inappropriately. Many retailers apparently believe that the size and growth of Saudi Arabia’s consumer market—in the apparel sector alone, it is predicted to grow by 60 percent and be worth $17.6 billion within five years—makes it worth this additional effort.
Source: Rory Jones, The Wall Street Journal, July 16, 2015