Monday, June 27, 2011

Letters from Egypt: Corporate Takeovers

It’s interesting to see how Egypt is transforming post-revolution, and one thing I’ve noticed are the Egyptian stores closing up shop and international corporations moving in.

Two examples of corporations that have moved into Maadi:

Aussie company and internationally recognized as a world-leading swimwear provider Speedo has opened its doors on Road 216 in Degla, Maadi taking the place of Sxy’s. The textile and garment shareholding company that was launched in 1998 by Hisham Al Dika. Well, farewell Sxy’s or ma3 el salama – wishing you better luck in your other locations.

And next up is Converse, the American shoe company that took the 80s by storm – and shockingly enough, my 15-year old niece and her friends are still sporting the “Cons.” This location also on Rd 216 takes the location from a local shoe store that I can’t give you the name because the display shoes were hideous and I never bothered to go in.

However, what I wonder is how people are remotely able to afford the items that these imported brands cost since everyone in Egypt is facing rising prices and are scaling back on unnecessary items. This is a good time for strong, stable apparel and other similar companies to get entrenched in the Egyptian market, but how long will these companies be able to weather the storm of the revolution’s economic pitfalls without producing a marginal profit?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Letters from Egypt: High Price to Pay

Graffiti post-revolution in Maadi
Dear Interim Egyptian Government,

I know that you are busy getting prepared for elections and making an effort to boost Egypt’s economy, but I would like to offer my expertise on how to revive your economy.

And thus, when you see one foreigner, you believe that you should charge triple the normal rate in order to make up for all the lost business as a result of the revolution. However, perhaps just charging the actual amount or even giving a discount because you have business in the first place would be a great way to rebuilding your economic status.

I admire the way you have begun advertising in other markets. I was particularly excited to see an advertisement on a local Shanghai television station that promoted Egypt’s tourism industry. What I am not excited about is seeing the three times plus airfare that is running rampant just to get into this country. Pre-revolution, direct flights to JFK Airport (NYC) from Cairo International Airport (CAI) cost around $650 roundtrip.

Check out these top-notch deals (sarcasm):
CAI to JFK around October 24, 2011-November 7
Multiple Stops – Economy Class
One Stop – Economy Class
Air France
One Stop – Economy Class
Turkish Air
One Stop – Economy Class

A friend of mine is looking for the opposite roundtrip originating in the US (JFK). She found a roundtrip ticket for $1,170 via Aeroflot with an EIGHT HOUR LAYOVER in…wait for it…wait for it…MOSCOW! Really??? In addition to these increased air fares, hotels and resorts have doubled prices as well (Fairmont and Grand Hyatt).

Whether many of you would like to admit it or not, foreign investment has been a major staple in Egypt’s economy for awhile. It stems from not only the tourism industry, but also the expatriates that reside in the country spending ample funds generating revenue for many local business owners. However, with the country’s stability hanging in the air, many businesses have relocated and/or closed their branches in Egypt altogether.

So for those of you begging for foreigners to leave, how about you talk to some of your local business owners and get their thoughts? Owner of Pimp My Shirt in Maadi (Rd 263) said that prices for already printed shirts were previously LE 20 and now are LE 50. Custom shirts have increased from 90 LE to 120 LE per shirt (although for larger orders, deals can be made). He also told me at CSA’s Party in the Park that business had dropped at least 40% post-revolution.

If you do the conversion from Egyptian Pounds (LE) to US Dollars (USD), many of you might not think these prices sound outrageous and you’re right. However, you have to factor in the average salary in Egypt and the previous revenue that these businesses accrued. You cannot compare prices in the US for instance to Egyptian prices, it’s like comparing apples and oranges.

So while some are calling for the departure of the expats residing in Egypt, think about the repercussions first. Ask your friends in tourism how they feel and don’t forget to go to your local shop (if it’s still in business) to get their thoughts. In Maadi alone, I’ve seen two clothing stores go under only to be replaced by larger franchises like Speedo and Converse.

I am neither for nor against the revolution, but as events continue to drag on, I find myself increasingly disgusted. And one final word, if you must do graffiti on the walls/buildings, can you at least make it somewhat pleasing to the eye? I’m getting really tired of seeing stick people or hearts with wings. The wall for Victoria College near the Grand Mall/Burger Joint is ridiculous and yet teens are constantly out asking for money to purchase MORE spray paint. You have to be kidding me. You’re getting money to draw stick people. STICK PEOPLE! And yet here’s to you for hoping that there’s a better future ahead…

Disclaimer: While I was looking just last week, I didn’t find these other deals as even Expedia was outrageous. However, here are a couple of deals I just found while looking up prices for this blog. Please note that I am uncertain if this is including tax as I didn’t continue the process. If other fees/taxes are added after this total, prices will double. (via AA)
One Stop – Economy Class
$719 (via Etihad and AA)
One Stop – Economy Class

 Here are some other lovely graffiti photos I am so lucky to see daily (S-A-R-C-A-S-M):

At first glance, I thought this was an armadillo. When taking this photo I realized it is, in fact, an anteater - which symbolizes the revolution how?

I find great meaning in this crow...

Your guess is as good as mine

I have absolutely no idea as to what this is either