It is no wonder that the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) adds an average of Dh10 billion to the emirate’s economy by fuelling incremental spending on retail, hospitality and travel. The past two editions contributed more than Dh15 billion annually to Dubai’s economy.
The retail sector has always been one of the most critical drivers of growth for Dubai. In the past 17 years, DSF has turned into a vital component for success in the sector. Retailers point out that the government’s efforts to promote DSF as the world’s leading shopping extravaganza has boosted their business significantly.
Eisa Adam, Board of Directors, Dubai Shopping Malls Group (DSMG) — an organisation of malls established under the patronage of the Dubai Department of Economic Development to promote the retail sector — tells GN Focus: “During the festival, most of the participating malls organise spectacular events and activities, which serve as a pull for shoppers. Customers not only visit malls to experience events but also spend time in shopping, dining and leisure activities, which lead to a minimum of 25 per cent growth for the participating outlets.”
Fuad Al Najjar, Senior Director, Asset Management, Shopping Malls for Majid Al Futtaim (MAF), which has Mall of the Emirates, Deira City Centre and Mirdif City Centre in its portfolio, points out that the timing of DSF, just after the gift-giving holiday season, is ideal for pushing business. “DSF can leverage from the pleasant peak season weather and continue with the spending trend that comes out of the festive holiday period,” he says. “The regional and international prominence of DSF makes it one of the key retail trade periods for our malls and retail partners, with visitors coming from all over the world to take advantage of Dubai’s premium shopping opportunities.”
According to a survey conducted by research and consulting organisation YouGov Siraj, of the Dh15.1 billion spent by shoppers during DSF 2011, around 40 per cent (Dh5.9 billion) was generated by regional and international visitors, while UAE residents spent Dh6.2 billion. Clothes, fashion items and accessories were the most popular DSF purchases for tourists. “Retail needs high footfall to be successful and DSF is one such festival that brings people from all over the world,” says Adam.
The year’s retail highlight
Like previous editions, last year’s DSF also provided a fillip to the retail sector. For the malls under MAF Properties, the 2012 edition proved to be a major success and the retail highlight of the year. “Mall of the Emirates, Deira City Centre and Mirdif City Centre experienced a healthy increase in both sales and footfall during DSF, compared to regular operational days,” says Al Najjar.
Nasser Rafi, CEO, Emaar Malls Group, which includes The Dubai Mall, Dubai Marina Mall, Gold and Diamond Park and Souk Al Bahar, points out that its malls also recorded robust growth in visitors during DSF last year.
“Today, The Dubai Mall serves as the must-visit shopping and leisure destination for more than 2.5 billion people in the primary catchment area of the Middle East, Africa, Asia and CIS countries, among others,” says Rafi. “This is reflected in the visitor footfall with the mall welcoming more than 54 million visitors in 2011 and over 44.5 million visitors from January to September 2012, an increase of about 15 per cent compared to the same period last year.”
Neelesh Bhatnagar, Director, Oasis Centre, the flagship mall of the Landmark Group, says the mall experienced a spike of almost 30 per cent in footfall during last year’s DSF, as compared to 2011. “While we wish to sustain the footfall from last year, our aim is to increase sales by at least 10 per cent this year,” he says.
Along with mall managements, retailers in Dubai also look forward to DSF to provide traction in their business and bolster their annual tally. “The shopping festival traditionally comes right after our end-of-season sales, giving customers a chance to avail of offers and discounts while they shop for fresh collections at our stores,” says Vipen Sethi, CEO, Landmark Group, which has some popular brands in its kitty, including Home Centre, Q Home Décor, Splash, Shoe Mart, Lifestyle and Emax. This has translated into incremental sales and footfall for most of our brands.”
Landmark Group has many plans for DSF this year. “Offers may be in the form of either flat discounts on our collections or special gift voucher promotions to incentivise high-ticket purchases,” Sethi says. “It depends largely on the individual brands’ historical performance and business focus.”
Despite volatility in gold prices, the jewellery sector also witnessed a jump in footfall and sales during the shopping festival in 2011. Pure Gold Jewellers, for instance, experienced a double-digit sales growth across its stores during DSF. “We especially saw an increase in the number of tourists visiting our stores, which is a testimony to DSF’s popularity internationally,” says Karim Merchant, CEO and MD, Pure Gold Jewellers. “In 2012, we offered a free quarter-carat pendant on every purchase of any diamond jewellery worth Dh2,999, which lured in the customers. In addition, we offered the lowest guaranteed prices on our diamond jewellery collection, which was also well received by them.”
Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, once said: “Since 1996, DSF has been a success story for the emirate. We are firmly committed to continuing to build the traditional sectors of trade and industry; driving opportunities for companies, including the critical small and medium enterprises sector, through the creation of the best possible environment for business growth.” True to his words, DSF has grown to become a force to reckon with and has played a significant role in strengthening Dubai’s retail sector.
Shopping for tiny tots
Babyshop, the region’s popular retailer for children’s products, also witnessed growth in its business during the last Dubai Shopping Festival. In 2012, it offered shoppers a chance to earn up to 60 per cent discount on its winter collection across all stand-alone Babyshop stores in Dubai and select stores in other emirates. “The promotion helped us grow in customer loyalty and sales,” says Ruban Shanmugarajah, General Manager, Babyshop in the UAE. “This year one of our strategies is to carry over the interest generated in the holiday season to the month of January. Our target is to break even on sales and increase footfall at our store.”