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Business Analysis


UAE and Saudi shoppers are quite taken up with ‘quiet luxury’

Luxury continues to have its sway with Gulf shoppers even as subtle changes show up

Luxury is never going to go out of fashion where Gulf consumers are concerned.
Image Credit: Shutterstock

The realm of luxury retail destinations witnessed a dynamic transformation in 2023. Trends such as sustainable extravagance and resurgence of classic craftsmanship are reshaping the definition of luxury.

Prestigious luxury shopping destinations such as Tokyo’s Ginza Six, Harrods in London and the Golden Triangle of Paris maintain their prominence by seamlessly blending tradition with innovation to cater to the spending habits of a discerning clientele.

The interplay of design, technology and lifestyle is guiding this profound metamorphosis in the ever-evolving world of luxury.

Resilience of luxury

From the world’s biggest shopping malls to boutiques and designer flagship stores, the luxury market faces unique challenges during economic uncertainties, often defined by shifts in consumer spending habits. While downturns may lead to conservative spending among affluent consumers, impacting the demand for high-end luxury goods, they also present opportunities for strategic adaptation.

The US luxury market grappled with a decline of 20 per cent in 2023 compared to higher spending between 2020-22. In response, industry players pivoted towards exploring untapped potential in emerging markets like China, India and the Middle East. Characterised by their burgeoning middle-class growth and a deep appreciation for luxury goods, these regions became focal points for redirected marketing efforts.


The Middle East, in particular, emerged as a vibrant force in the luxury market landscape. Recent findings reveal that 38 per cent of consumers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia are luxury aficionados, demonstrating a willingness to invest more on prestigious retail experiences.

A significant 54 per cent of these devoted consumers prioritise brand loyalty over price considerations, underscoring the impact of well-established luxury relationships within the region. This behaviour not only mirrors the overarching trend of brand loyalty, but also underscores its pivotal role in shaping the Middle East’s luxury market.

Aspects of these trends are also set to continue as younger generations enter the labour market and begin to increase their purchasing power. The growing cohort of young, affluent individuals desire more than a mere transactional relationship; they seek active involvement in the brand’s universe, anticipating their pivotal role as future patrons of luxury.

Rise of ‘quiet luxury’

Also known as ‘discreet luxury’, the quiet luxury trend represents a shift from material possessions towards prioritising subtlety, artisanry and exclusivity over overt branding. The movement caters to a clientele with a taste for understated elegance and exceptional quality, as opposed to prominently displayed logos.

Although understatement in luxury has been around for decades, it recently regained prominence as consumers wish to further distance themselves from conspicuous consumption and flashy logos. Luxury brands responded by transitioning towards more refined, minimalist designs, and aligning with evolvingconsumer preferences that favour a more nuanced and sophisticated approach to luxury.


This shift towards subtlety in luxury reflects a broader evolution in consumer values, where the desire for understated elegance converges with a growing conscientiousness about the environmental impact of consumption.

As consumers increasingly prioritise sustainability, luxury brands are not only embracing minimalist designs but also redefining their commitment to eco-friendly practices, introducing innovative alternatives that align with a more environmentally conscious mindset.

Embracing sustainability

Luxury brands have adeptly pivoted towards a sustainable customer-centric approach in response to the growing global consciousness around environmental issues and ethical practices. Recognising the shifting preferences of a socially aware consumer base, brands have proactively aligned themselves with values that prioritise eco-friendly processes, ethical sourcing and responsible production.

As such legacy luxury brands are also elevating their commitment to sustainability by substituting traditional materials with environmentally friendly alternatives and introducing a wider range of refillable products.

A case in point is 31 Le Rouge, Chanel’s inaugural foray into glass-packaged lipstick, which pays homage to the brand’s esteemed haute perfumery lineage, while emphasising the recyclability and timeless quality of the product.


An impressive 74 per cent of consumers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia now express a clear preference for brands that are sustainable and actively contribute to a greener future. This shift not only addresses pressing environmental concerns but also resonates with a new generation of luxury consumers who value authenticity and transparency.

In the role of curating an experiential retail environment, it is important to recognise the significance of these preferences and to build a strong offering of brands that resonate with today’s discerning clientele.

While this elevates the offerings within a mall, it also positions the destination as a hub where high-end products coalesce with a commitment to making a positive impact on the world.

In the luxury sector, the convergence of tradition and innovation, where subtlety speaks louder than logos, is pivotal in shaping future trends. As we delve into sustainable luxury, emphasise timeless craftsmanship and appreciate the understated charm of discreet luxury, it becomes evident that the narrative surrounding extravagance is rewriting itself.

In this balance between heritage and modernity, luxury transcends mere possession; it becomes an experience, an ethos and a reflection of evolving values.

David Robinson
The writer is the CEO of Al Maryah Retail Company