Tony Salamé’s Aïshti retail empire dominates Lebanon’s luxury retail market. It includes three department stores in Beirut, over 25 franchise agreements and two publications A and Gossip.
Salamé has licensing deals and franchise agreements with fashion’s biggest players, including, but not limited to, Céline, Gucci, Dior, Stella McCartney, Yves Saint Laurent, Fendi, Marc Jacobs, Balenciaga, Marni and Dolce and Gabbana.
Salamé told Back to Beirut, “I always liked retail. Even at university (studying law) I was travelling and importing goods, and then selling them to friends,” he says. “Later, when I was on holiday, I brought items from Italy to Lebanon. At the beginning I went to stores and bought during sales.”
With a seed fund of $5,000 the retailer opened his first store in 1989 in a warehouse, stocking clothes from the previous season. He soon saw an opportunity to expand his business however, “Lebanese customers were always eager to have the latest fashions, so after six months I went into the same business model as a store, with regular seasons and brands.”
In 1999 the company opened its flagship in the re-developed downtown Beirut area. "We turned downtown into a district for shopping and a cultural scene rarely visualized in the Middle East.”Aïshti now employs 900 staff, operates over a combined 26,000 square meters of retail space in Lebanon, and 6,000 square meters in Jordan, Dubai and Kuwait.