Comptoir 102: two French women rock the retail experience in Dubai

Emmanuelle Sawko and Alexandra de Montaudouin in Comptoir 102, Dubai

We know Dubai for its extravagant real estate like The Palm, The World, and the soaring Burj Khalifa. It’s also a shopaholic’s heaven, offering everything imaginable to catch the eye and impress.

Information

Comptoir 102, 102 Beach Rd Jumeirah 1 Opened Monday to Sunday from 8 am to 10 pm 0097143854555

Yes, Dubai is a Mecca of the shopping world with mega-malls fiercely competing to attract the customers’ attention (and money!), offering superlative retail therapy and applying “retail-tainment” to its extreme. Where else could you plunk your children on an interior ski slope before racing off to shop? When outside temperatures reach 50°C, there’s fresh snow in the Mall of the Emirates at Ski Dubai, where people dressed in their best ski gear bring new meaning to “cool”.

Alpine sports not your thing? Then head to Dubai Mall where you can shop every imaginable luxury brand (Gucci, Ladurée, Dyptique to name a few). Then enjoy the Dancing Fountain water show or stroll through the Aquarium’s gigantic glass tube while sharks and manta rays swim above and around you!

Yet, amidst all Dubai’s mind-blowing bling, some very different retail concepts are now emerging. People seem to be growing weary of monster malls. They are looking for more refreshing and holistic concepts, for more authentic and individual retail experiences. I explored the town to find these new bubbles of creativity and discovered a gem – Comptoir 102.

Comptoir 102 is an incredibly vibrant concept store conceived by two French women, co-founders Emmanuelle Sawko and Alexandra de Montaudouin. The interior design has been smartly planned and their brand selection carefully edited. I met up with them to discuss how their shop came to be.

 

Comptoir 102 DubaiComptoir 102 Dubai

 

A need for “places with soul” guided the concept. “We wanted something off-beat, a place that did not already exist in Dubai”, said Alexandra, “and we were right in doing so. It was received much better than we expected. Our patrons are from diverse backgrounds. We attract lots of locals and a lot of expatriates too.”

The shop, which was launched in 2013 in a bungalow on Jumeirah Beach Road, sells an eclectic array of goods. It was like a UFO had landed! Comptoir 102 was a new concept that locals had difficulty grasping. “Selling sandwiches next to sofas was not really coherent in their eyes,” Alexandra said.

 

Comptoir 102 Dubai

 

Alexandra and Emma met and became friends after both had followed their husbands to Dubai. Tapping into their shared passion for retail and art, they devised Comptoir 102, a concept store like the ones you might find in New York, London or Paris.

Alexandra told me, “We have imagined a lifestyle place. The idea is that people will come to the restaurant for a coffee or a healthy bite in a homey environment. Then they can shop our unusual jewels, a provocative book, a unique lamp, great shoes or even a couch!”

But the concept goes further. Comptoir 102 also serves as a cultural hub hosting events such as book readings, artistic performances and exhibitions of contemporary artists and designers.

 

Comptoir 102 Dubai

comptoir 102 Dubai Arik Levy

 

Emma explained, “We wanted a place filled with all the things we love in contemporary art and design. We’ve exhibited Arik Levy and India Madhavi. We also partner with Art Dubai and Dubai Design Days. We try to always keep up with what’s going on, to create events, to educate, to make this place lively. There is always something new to see and to experience”. And that’s why people keep coming back.

The concept gained traction. “You can see how the Beach Road has been changing since we started. New interior design shops and restaurants keep opening in the neighborhood. In the future, this street will be a place for another type of shopping experience, more off-beat places. I guess we chose the right location”, said Alexandra.

In fact, the whole retail landscape of Dubai seems to be evolving. Tastes are quickly changing with initiatives like Art Dubai and Dubai Design Days[1] becoming fairs of international standard and thanks to Tashkeel[2] and Alserkal Avenue[3], exposing the city to cutting-edge artists and designers.

Emma observed, “There has been a huge evolution in Dubai since I arrived 4 years ago from New York. At that time, Dubai was not ready for change, but you now feel a positive vibe towards innovative ideas and new concepts. You feel a new dynamic. In that sense, I reckon Comptoir 102 served as a catalyst to the evolution of the new Dubai mindset.”

Alexandra told me, “Dubai is a city expanding at full speed, opening doors to all sorts of projects. It’s also a multicultural city, which makes it all the more attractive. There’s huge potential and things are evolving in the right direction. It’s very exciting to be part of this energy and to live it daily.”

The store stocks mainly international brands from edgy designers, but the owners keep a close eye on local brands too. “The local fashion scene is still in a phase of discovery but things are also bubbling here. There’s Fashion Forward, an event that promotes local fashion designers. Of course, Dubai being diverse, it means Filipinos, Indians, and other foreign designers, but all based in Dubai. It attracts quite a crowd over here and some designers are getting traction,” said Alexandra. Emma added, “The culture of standing out in a crowd by having your own style was not part of Dubai culture but we’re getting there I think.”

And if that’s not enough, Comptoir 102 promotes a healthy living style through their fantastic restaurant (open all day) and through their farmers market held every Saturday from 11am to 1pm.

 

Comptoir 102 Dubai

Comptoir 102 Dubai

Comptoir 102 Dubai

Comptoir 102 Dubai

 

Comptoir 102 is the antidote for fast paced retail, a place where you enjoy spending time (and money!), where you can relax, feel at home and, at the same time, be inspired.

The interior design of both the shop and the restaurant interacts seamlessly with and the items on sale. You can sense that every object has been carefully chosen both to decorate the space and to give the customer the irresistible urge to buy.

Alexandra and Emma created an inviting atmosphere, focused on customer pampering. A visit to Comptoir 102 is unmissable on your next trip to Dubai.

A true “coup de coeur”.

 

  

[1] Our tip on Art Dubai and Dubai Design Days

[2] Read our interview of Anabelle de Gersigny, Tashkeel’s Strategy and Partnership Development Manager

[3] Our tip on Alserkal Avenue


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