United Arab Emirates-based hypermarket operator LuLu has announced its first Express store targeting only women. The new shop selling clothing and general merchandise spans 27,000 square feet in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and employs 103 women. Lulu employs a total of 3,000 staffers, 800 of whom are women. The move comes as the retailer reaches a landmark of 200 locations.
The news comes at a time of significant social and cultural change for Saudi Arabia, an important market for the global fashion industry. The country has historically low female employment rates across retail and most other sectors of the economy and a dismal record on women’s rights. However, in recent years crown prince Mohammed bin Salman has gradually granted more freedom to women. In 2018, he codified women’s right to drive and, in 2019, he loosened guardianship laws, allowing women the right to travel without a male relative’s permission.
LuLu Group chairman Yusuffali M.A. said in a statement reported by Gulf News: “We have always tried to give training and employment to the youth and especially the skilled women of this region. We are proud that this new initiative to empower women will go a long way in opening new opportunities and career options for the youth in general and women in particular.”