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.