The highs and lows of business in the Middle East in 2016

To say that 2016 has been a challenging year for the Middle East is an understatement. But businesses are still working hard to turn a profit and have a positive impact on their customers' lives. We caught up with Nisreen Shocair, President of Virgin Megastore Middle East and North Africa, to find out what she’s learnt from this year and how they’ll be giving back to their community next year…

What has been your favourite moment in business this year?

I’ve had so many, but probably the stand out moment was being part of Virgin Disruptors alongside Richard Branson and some pretty amazing people who have inspired me in more ways that I can imagine. It was an opportunity to talk about my personal experience as a female executive in the Middle East, how we’ve repositioned the Virgin Megastore brand to one that can evolve and change with the times, and how the youth continue to look up to Virgin as a brand and Richard as an entrepreneur and a role model.

What have you been proud of your company for achieving?

We won an award for Most Admired Retailer and Most Admired Online Retailer of the Year. The team has worked really hard on launching the first omnichannel experience in the region through virginmegastore.ae. It has been a great way for us to show the world how Virgin Megastore has transformed into a whole new world of fun. It has also give us a chance to reach more customers worldwide who still love and miss Virgin Megastore.

What is the most important thing you’ve learnt in business this year?

Keep the bigger picture in sight and always find new ways to stay happy and optimistic. We’ve had our fair share of sad news across the Middle East, with the Syrian refugee crisis affecting everyone’s sentiment one way or the other. The drop in oil prices has also put pressure on businesses as tourism has slowed down. Instead of getting demotivated, our teams have stuck together, and found creative ways of helping and supporting one another and the business, and we’ve come out of 2016 strong and closer than ever.

What do you hope to achieve in business next year?

We’ve got lots planned for next year: We are looking to grow our footprint online and in-store by launching new markets and new concepts that can give our teams the professional opportunities to continue to grow and learn with us.

We’re also looking for more entrepreneurs, artists and creators we can put the Virgin Megastore strength behind. We successfully launched over 20 in 2016, with more to come in 2017 and beyond.

Next year we’re launching marketplaces within our stores to encourage local communities and businesses in each of the markets that we’re in. We’re also building hubs for gaming, sports, comics and personalised fashion in our flagship stores.

How do you plan to give something back or pay some forward next year?

We are working on several education driven initiatives for Syrian refugees in Jordan, Greece and Turkey and hope to be able to launch a regional Buy One Give One book and stationery campaign through local charities.

We will also continue our Pay It Forward campaign, which encourages our customers to donate to Dubai Foundation for Women and Children during Ramadan.

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