It all started with two brothers from India selling handicrafts near Sharjah Heritage Museum
Lucky: The Sharjah furniture shop that dates back to 1985
Browsing Lucky Furniture’s 10 warehouses in Sharjah is not an altogether pleasant experience, particularly at this time of year. There is no air conditioning and the dust hangs oppressively in the air. Towering piles of wooden furniture glare down at you from all sides; chair legs, tabletops and cabinet doors cramp the already claustrophobic corridors.
The strange thing, though, is that you won’t want to leave – and when you do, it will almost certainly be with a great lump of wood in the back of your car.
Each piece of furniture clamours for attention, so it can take 20 minutes just to get from one section to the next. “It’s a real warehouse shopping experience,” says Adnan Shaikh, son of Lucky Furniture co-founder Parvez Mohammed. “There is so much variety, which you won’t find anywhere else.”
It wasn’t always like this, however. Lucky Furniture, which now occupies a vast space in Sharjah’s Industrial Area, began in 1985 when Parvez and his brother, Feroz, who were both teenagers and had only recently arrived from Mumbai, started selling small, hand-crafted items in a shop opposite Sharjah Heritage Museum.
When customers began asking for bigger pieces of furniture, the brothers visited India and scoured the workshops in Rajasthan for interesting bits and pieces to bring back to the UAE. It is a business model that has endured and, in 1998, to accommodate an ever-increasing demand, Parvez and Feroz moved their business to its current location.
“My father was always drawn towards wood, he really admires it,” Shaikh says. “He loves intricate carvings.” This passion was passed down to Shaikh, who is 25 and has been helping his father and uncle at work for as long as he can remember.
“I have been coming to the warehouse since I was 2 or 3 years old,” he says. “When I was about 10, I would hang about in the office and get to know the business. It wasn’t long before I knew exactly what each wood was just by looking at it.”
The appeal of Lucky Furniture is obvious. With the rise of megastores such as Ikea, which sell homogenised products for identikit homes, Lucky Furniture offers something different – a 300-year-old door, perhaps, or an original ox cart wheel. There is also a workshop on-site, should you want any alterations made.
Adnan now returns to India at least twice a year to visit the warehouses and look for products. “Some of the older furniture is acquired from Indian villages,” he says. “But a lot of the items are newly made and carved or painted to look rustic.”
There is, in fact, an old-fashioned – and very welcome – feel to the whole operation. Shaikh has attempted to incorporate some social media into the business strategy, but his father won’t have anything to do with it. “If someone asks for a picture of a piece of furniture, he’ll just give them my number,” he says. “He’s not into the internet or anything like that.”
In addition to this, Lucky Furniture doesn’t advertise. “Word of mouth is the best advertisement,” says Shaikh. “We do have competitors, but people come to us because the prices are low. If you have a store in Dubai, you have to cover your overheads, which means you have to put the prices up.”
A good-sized dining table at Lucky Furniture costs anywhere between Dh1,500 and Dh2,500 – although some of the antique items are on sale for as much as Dh15,000. “You could buy a plywood or compressed wood table for cheaper but it won’t last a long time,” Adnan says. “These ones will last you a lifetime.”
To emphasise the point, Adnan tells me about a customer he had met the day before. “She had bought stuff from us 19 years ago, shipped it to France, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and then back to Dubai,” he says, before adding triumphantly, “She said it was still as good as new.”
The only rule at Lucky Furniture is that you mustn’t haggle. “A lot of stores mark their furniture with high prices and then give you a discount to make you feel like you’ve got a deal,” Adnan says. “Here, though, you have the deal right in front of you.”