Dubai: An unprecedented shopping blitzkrieg begins in Dubai as the malls go into overdrive to meet the mega challenge.
Millions of shoppers, including an estimated one million tourists, are expected to visit Dubai during Eid Al Adha when some of the city’s best-known malls will be open around the clock over three consecutive weekends.
The 24-hour run is in keeping with a decision by the Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment to mark this year’s Eid with a first-of-its-kind shopping experience.
The non-stop extravaganza is expected to take Dubai, which has already earned the reputation of being a shopper’s paradise thanks to the Dubai Shopping Festival and Dubai Summer Surprises, to the next level.
The Dubai Mall, which has 1,200 outlets and claims to be the world’s most-visited shopping destination with 54 million visitors in 2011, is set to outdo itself this season. “We are confident of hosting record footfall this Eid at The Dubai Mall,” said Nasser Rafi, Chief Executive Officer, Emaar Malls Group.
Other malls such as Mall of the Emirates, Deira City Centre, Mirdif City Centre, Dubai Festival City, Ibn Battuta Mall and Lamcy Plaza are also gearing up to draw in massive crowds.
The uninterrupted run means all stops are being pulled out by retailers and the authorities. From the Department of Economic Development (DED) exempting shops from paying additional fees and appointing at least 50 special inspectors (see box) to retail back-office teams working on the floor, the 24-hour blitzkrieg is proving to be quite the exception.
Extra hours, extra work
Retailers have welcomed the decision to operate round the clock, even if it means having to contend with existing staff to man extra shifts, besides managing revised schedules with deliveries, cleaning, security and IT support services.
The store manager of a well-known retail brand that has nine stores in the UAE said: “During normal weekends we operate three shifts. Now we need to include one more, but have to make do with the existing 54 staff. The stores will also have to be cleaned when customers are around and we will have to take our daily deliveries through the sales floor. These tasks are usually completed before the stores open, but now that won’t be possible. The challenge is to ensure that the level of customer service is not affected at the end of the day.”
She said the stores have to resolve other operational issues like 24-hour IT and security support, besides working on additional schedules with warehouses.
“Moreover, 20 per cent of our staff are Muslims who also want to celebrate Eid,” she said, adding that they would have to be paid overtime for their services.
Like this retail chain, other groups will also be roping in their back-office teams to support the floor staff.
“The main challenge will be to make sure we have sufficient manpower on the retail floor to provide a consistent and pleasant shopping experience during the late night trading. We will be reworking our resource plan to accommodate the extra hours and will also have some of our senior staff and managers supporting the stores during the weekends,” said Sajid Syed, General Manager (Sales and Operations) for Giordano, seven of whose 44 outlets in the UAE will be open 24 hours.
He said: “We will have an additional shift to cover midnight to 9am during the weekends. We will not be getting in any new staff for this period. Instead, we will be working with our current team and reworking their timings for the 24-hour trading.”
Despite these challenges, the retailers believe the 24-hour run is a great idea as it will boost sales. “This is a new and differentiated idea and we are confident it will drive traffic to the stores. We are offering 25 per cent off in the seven participating stores valid only from 10pm to 10am the following day. This is a first for Giordano and we are confident of the support that we will receive from the market,” said Sayed.
Ruban Shanmugarajah, General Manager of Babyshop UAE, said: “It gives us an added opportunity to sell during the festive season which is an excellent way to maximise our sales potential… In terms of staffing, we would treat this as a sales promotion period and we will effectively run an extra shift in the night. As this is the first time a promotion of this kind is being run, we don’t have any historical data about customer demand. I am certain that we will keep learning along the way and keep adapting.”
Manu Jeswani, Director of Landmark Group, which owns Babyshop and several other brands, said: “This is a great initiative that adds to the vibrant retail environment that Dubai is so well known for… Each of the participating Landmark Group concepts tends to have its own considerations for staffing and other event dynamics.”
Similarly, Govind Bharwani, President of the Apparel Group, which covers 35 brands across 260 outlets in Dubai, said: “We are very excited about the 24-hour run. Our back-office team will support the floor staff during the weekends. We are a big organisation with over 3,500 employees.”
Besides retail shops, the leisure and entertainment attractions in the malls will also observe new timings. At the Dubai Mall, for instance, the Reel Cinemas, Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, Dubai Ice Rink, KidZania and Sega Republic will be open 24 hours.
Similarly, Ski Dubai at the Mall of the Emirates and other attractions at the Majid Al Futtaim Malls will have extended hours, with promotions adding to the excitement. For example, Ski Dubai will give complimentary hot chocolate with every Super Pass admission daily from midnight to 3am, and Soccer Circus Training Academy, Little Explorers and First Time Flyer for iFly Dubai will offer buy-one-get-one-free from 1am to 8am during the weekends.
- With inputs from Habiba Ahmed Abd Elaziz
DED goes all out to ensure success
The Department of Economic Development (DED) has exempted participating stores from paying additional fees for the extended opening hours.
Sami Al Qamzi, Director General of DED, said: “Stores in those participating malls remaining open round the clock during Eid will be exempted from paying additional fees for extended opening hours. The decision is aimed to enhance trading and retail sectors as well as tourism, which will play an important role during the Eid holiday period.”
He said at least 50 inspectors will be deployed around the clock across malls for the convenience of visitors and to resolve any disputes that may arise between traders and consumers. They will also monitor promotions to ensure their credibility.
A DED administrative team comprising senior managers will supervise the inspectors and ensure complaints are resolved. Special care will be taken to readdress complaints of visitors to Dubai.
The DED has also formed a team of employees and volunteers to issue sales and promotions permits and ensure their delivery before the start of the initiative. “[We] will also allow other companies to run promotions without permits during that period, provided they submit applications to participate,” said Al Qamzi.
DED has also put in place senior administrators at locations where permits are issued. They will also be reachable on their mobile phones round the clock.
“DED has received inquiries from shopping malls about how to make the best use of the initiative and DED has assisted them in meeting some of their requirements, such as temporary employment and other concerns,” said Al Qamzi.
- Dubai ranks eighth in global tourist spending, ahead of New York, Shanghai, Kaula Lumpur and other cities, according to MasterCard’s Worldwide Index of Global Destination Cities for 2012
- The number of visitors to Dubai has jumped to 8.8 million, an increase of 15.3 per cent compared to the previous year
- UAE is home to the second highest number of international retail brands after the UK, according to a study by CBRE
- The Dubai Mall, which has 1,200 outlets, boasts of being the world’s most-visited shopping destination with 54 million visitors in 2011