We discuss scaling a business whilst maintaing integrity, innovation and the art of the perfect partnerships with Stuart Henwood, Regional General Manager Middle East, Africa & India at New Balance.
What do the first 30 minutes of your day look like, your morning routine?
In my daily routine, I prioritise waking up early and going for a bike ride. This morning exercise sets me up well for the day ahead by energising both my body and mind, allowing me to approach my tasks with a positive attitude and heightened focus. Once I arrive at work, the first part of my morning is dedicated to the Regional and Local teams. During this time, we discuss and strategize based on the key focal areas for that particular day or week.
How did your previous roles prepare you for your current role and what enticed you to work with a brand with such a great legacy?
Throughout my career, I have been incredibly fortunate to seize opportunities that have shaped my professional journey. Thirteen years ago, an exciting opportunity arose to work for New Balance in Hong Kong, and I am grateful for the chance to be a part of their dynamic team through my wider sports network. Before joining New Balance, I had gained valuable experience through diverse roles in FMCG and sales in various locations. These experiences were instrumental in developing my skills and understandingdifferent market dynamics. They provided me with a solid foundation and a unique perspective that I carry with me to this day.
How does New Balance innovate?
The brand is one of the leading sports manufacturers, suppliers, and retailers across the globe and continues to innovate whether that be in running with new technologies, sustainable material, sports science, or with retail environments. It’s on a continuous journey of innovation to meet the needs of our consumers.
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How do you approach markets differently when it comes to communication and growth strategy?
We set up the New Balance MENA subsidiary here in Dubai in July 2019 and we have been on an exciting journey across the GCC and African geographies. What is so exciting is that each country within the region is unique and different. The key is understanding, listening to our consumers and partners in those markets, and tailoring solutions to meet their needs whilst driving consistent brand product assortments & messaging. Glocalization is a word that best sums up our approach. Having a base here in Dubai with our own retail has enabled us to use an ink spot strategy for Retail as an example of how we approach retailing across the region. We are just getting started!
What has been the biggest challenge to date and how did you overcome it?
The Covid pandemic in 2020 after we had just set up the subsidiary, but the team did an amazing job in not just maintaining the momentum but surpassing it.
What has been your key learning or milestone and why was it so significant?
Opening our Flagship store in Dubai Mall in Oct 2021 enabled us to showcase our best-in-class products whilst engaging with our consumers in an interactive way. In addition, it enabled us to showcase the best expression of the brand to our partners which has led to strong growth with our wholesale and retail franchise partners across the region. This includes UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Morocco, Bahrain, Egypt and India.
What do you need in this current retail market to succeed?
To remain humble with a continued Challenger brand mindset.
How does the New Balance customer consume data and how do you ensure you speak to them regularly to retain loyalty?
We have our Brand social and digital site with which we engage with our communities as well as through sports marketing, grassroots and community initiatives. We also track and have regular consumer interaction sessions around MENA trends. It’s a continuous journey given the ever-changing habits of our consumers and in particular the young independent consumers and the way they shop.
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Do you believe in the online/offline partnership when it comes to building a brand?
This is key and it’s about balance across multipleplatforms of engagement and purchasing. An omnichannel mindset is integral togrowth and consumer engagement.
If you could give your younger self advice, what would it be?
The best advice I was given was “Stay the Course”. It helped me realize that things will not always go the way you want, but if you have a vision and a passion, “stay the course” things will work out.
If you are travelling – which pair of New Balance do you pack for multi-tasking?
Fresh Foam More or Made in US… it’s importantto be comfortable whilst stylish and both tick these boxes.
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Images: Supplied by New Balance