As a boy growing up in Lebanon, Toufic Kreidieh, along with his buddy, Yasser Beydoun, vowed to hit it big someday, having been coming up with business ideas at an early age.
“Looking back,” he recalls, “my childhood was a bit rough on the financial side; I had to work many jobs to have enough money to get by and help my mother.”
“During those times,” Toufic added, “I wanted to grow up and do something big not only for me, but for my family, too.”
Fast-forward to the present and – voila! Brands for Less (BFL), a chain of off-price retail shops selling branded clothing at affordable prices across 74 stores of which some 41 are in the UAE: 32 in Dubai and nine in Abu Dhabi. Plans are afoot to bring the UAE number to 52 by yearend.
At the helm are Toufic as CEO and Yasser, who sits in as BFL Group co-founder and managing partner.
“Both Yasser and I wanted to make a mark for ourselves, and we believe that we can contribute to a bigger cause. Despite our humble beginnings, we worked very hard and slowly built our business,” Toufic said.
The business partners saw an opportunity in the UAE – and a challenge too.
“When we expanded to the UAE back in 2000, we knew we had to come up with something more original. Everyone who has stepped into the UAE sees it as a land of great opportunities, and the only way for us to enter the market and become a successful brand is to offer something that will interest its buyers,” says Toufic.
That is why, he said, they came up with the unique “treasure hunt” business model, which encourages customers to come back with the promise of exceptional pieces at discounted prices — up to 80 per cent off the original retail price for fashion designer brands.
“Seeing the joy on people’s faces while browsing through the shops and getting the dream item for themselves contributes a large part to my definition of success. This feeling makes us work even harder to achieve more and come up with innovative ideas to support this ideal,” Toufic said.
Asked what keeps them going, Toufic said, “the easiest answer would be success.”
“But after opening our first Brands for Less store, we sensed how people appreciated us for who we are and what we can offer them. With that realization, I can say that it’s the people we serve that is the primary motivation for us to expand and to keep introducing more branded products and improving the quality of our services.
“We aim to make our affordable branded items available to as many people as we can and to stay as one of the leading off-price retailers in our current markets and, in time, the rest of the world,” he said.
Toufic said they decided to embark on this type of business because “customers tend to give high preference to branded items.”
“There is a certain reputation and quality assurance that brands provide, and customers want that. However, these are generally expensive, and not everyone would want to pay or can afford the full price.
“We saw this dilemma and observed that this is a need that no one else is catering to, at least not in the way that we do. So, we founded BFL Group with the mission to offer branded merchandise at a competitive rate, which people can afford,” Toufic said.
Having become quite successful in the road he has taken, Toufic has some life lessons he wants to share:
“I learned that there is no shortcut to earning respect from people. How you get respect from your team is the same as in any other relationship. You earn it over time.
“However, it starts when you communicate your values very clearly and articulate a clear vision for the organization. People will respect you more as you live those values every day and deliver results.”
Toufic and Yasser have also never failed to look back to their humble beginnings and are actively involved in the education of more than 100 children in Lebanon.
“Whenever we have the chance to help others who are in need, we aim to do so to the best of our capabilities,” Toufic said.