Surprise: Saudi Arabia’s Shocking Leap to Third Place in Global Retail: How Did They Do It?


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The Global Retail Development Index (GRDI) is a comprehensive ranking of countries based on their appeal to retail investors. It considers a variety of factors, including market size, economic and political stability, ease of doing business, and consumer behavior. Saudi Arabia has seen a remarkable increase in GRDI in recent years, cementing its position as one of the top retail development destinations. Saudi Arabia’s rise to third place in the GRDI can be attributed to several key factors, including a favorable business climate and retail market potential.

Economic Stability and Market Size

Saudi Arabia has the largest economy in the Middle East and North Africa. With a population of over 34 million, it provides a sizable consumer base with growing purchasing power. Due to the country’s oil reserves and diversification efforts, it has created a favorable environment for retail investments.

The government’s Vision 2030 initiative, which seeks to reduce reliance on oil and diversify the economy, has bolstered investor confidence. This long-term plan calls for the development of a variety of sectors, including retail, tourism, and entertainment, to boost economic growth and create job opportunities.

Infrastructure Development

Saudi Arabia has made significant investments in infrastructure development, including the construction of modern shopping malls, transportation networks, and logistics facilities. The retail sector has benefited from these developments, creating opportunities for both domestic and international retailers.

The Kingdom’s ambitious plans to develop mega-projects, such as NEOM and Qiddiya, will further enhance its retail landscape. These projects aim to create futuristic cities and entertainment destinations, attracting tourists and boosting consumer spending.

Changing Consumer Behavior

The consumer landscape in Saudi Arabia has undergone a significant transformation in recent years. Increasing urbanization, a young and tech-savvy population, and changing social norms have led to a shift in consumer behavior and preferences.

Saudi consumers are now more inclined towards experiential retail, seeking unique shopping experiences and entertainment options. This trend has prompted retailers to adopt innovative strategies, such as incorporating technology, enhancing customer service, and offering personalized shopping experiences.

Government Support and Reforms

The Saudi government has implemented several reforms to encourage foreign investment and boost the retail sector. These reforms include easing restrictions on foreign ownership, streamlining business licensing procedures, and launching initiatives to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation.

The establishment of the General Authority for Competition has also been instrumental in ensuring fair competition and protecting consumer rights. These measures have improved the investment climate and encouraged international retailers to enter the Saudi market.


Saudi Arabia’s meteoric rise to third place in the Global Retail Development Index is a result of its strong economic foundation, infrastructure development, shifting consumer behavior, and government support. The country’s retail sector has enormous potential for both domestic and international retailers, with opportunities to reach a large consumer base and profit from ongoing reforms.

As Saudi Arabia implements its Vision 2030 plans and invests in infrastructure and diversification, the retail sector is expected to thrive. Retailers seeking to expand their presence in the Middle East should look to Saudi Arabia as a promising growth and investment destination.

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