AWR Lifestyle considering drones deliveries for UAE last mile
AW Rostamani is examining the feasibility of robotics in its distribution centres, and drones for last mile delivery in the UAE, as it seeks to create the most advanced retail supply chain operation in the region.
American Rag, the new clothing and apparel brand from AWR Lifestyle, opened in Dubai Mall in October, already has one of the most sophisticated retail supply chain operations in the GCC.
According to Greig Fowler, CEO of AW Rostamani Lifestyle, it’s a showcase of the direction that retail is going in, as omnichannel logistics becomes ever-more integrated.
“The whole shape of retail is changing, omnichannel is the future. Brick and mortar retail outlets aren’t dying, but they are evolving,” says Fowler. “When it comes to the millennial customer, they want the digital and the retail experience under one roof. The next generation of retail customer has more trust in the digital than the human.”
AW Rostamani Lifestyle partnered with actiMirror so that all the mirrors in store have a barcode reading functionality. The mirrors will be able to give customers more information about the product they’re trying on.
“It’ll tell you the price, the size, the style, but it’ll also make recommendations on what completes the outfit and will tell you whether these other items are in the store or in the warehouse,” says Fowler. “If it isn’t available in the store you can order it to your home.”
Another partnership came in the form of Pepper, the humanoid robot from SoftBank. While Pepper has been used to some extent as a customer-facing chatbot by banks, airports and even government departments, she’s never been deployed to this extent.
“Pepper has never been used in a retail setting as a fully transactional e-commerce module,” says Fowler. “She’ll known every product in the store and where it is, she’ll be able to make recommendations and she’ll be able to take orders and have products delivered to the customers’ home.”
While the 22,000sqm distribution centre in Dubai Industrial City doesn’t have any automation within it yet, Fowler says it’s only a matter of time. “We aren’t using robotics and AI in the warehouse, but it’s something we’re looking at,” he says.
“If you look at some of the leading e-com platforms in China or America, they have huge warehouses run by 50 robots and 20 staff, so that’s something to aspire to. The robots we’re using are more customer facing, but as we get to scale it’s something that’s on the radar.”
Drone deliveries is another promising fulfilment option, according to Fowler. But the feasibility of this technology remains several years in the future.
“We need to have the regulatory framework here established first,” says Fowler. “In China it’s easy because it’s one country with no border controls, but if there could be a GCC wide understanding for customs controls for these technologies it would revolutionise last mile in the region. If you can do fulfilment within three hours across China imagine what you could achieve in the GCC?”