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Al Futtaim expects single-digit retail growth this year

Automotive segment among most resurgent even as group's operations outside the region continue to fare comparatively better

Gulf News

Dubai: Consumer spending in the UAE has picked up in recent months and retail sales will rise at least 5 per cent this year, driven mostly by furniture and car sales, according to a major UAE retailer.

Dubai's retail sector, which generates a third of Dubai's gross domestic product, was hit hard when the financial crisis crimped consumer spending and the number of tourists to the emirate fell.

"We're in upper single digits in retail in the UAE this year, in the range of 5 per cent plus, and even further ahead in automotive ... Growth is going to be even better next year," said Robert Willett, group CEO of Al Futtaim.

"Elements in our retail business, like IKEA or Toyota, are doing extremely well, as is Marks and Spencer, especially in places outside the UAE, like Kuala Lumpur and Singapore," he said, adding that operations in Asia were currently outperforming those in the UAE.

Al Futtaim, which was established in the 1930s as a trading business, has its headquarters in Dubai and holds regional franchises of companies including IKEA, Toys R Us, Marks and Spencer and Toyota Motor Corp.

A survey of the global retail market in 2009 by consultancy CB Richard Ellis showed Dubai was the second most attractive city in the world for retailers, just behind London but ahead of Paris and New York.

Willett said the group's car and furniture businesses were doing particularly well, along with financial services, especially insurance. "We are going to see steady growth in the UAE market place this year, but it will improve at the back-end of next year. There are obviously better pockets, like the auto business, the automotive parts particularly, financial services, construction, will do well."