Sock - Smartphone
Not just the iPhone 14, grey imports of just about all the in-demand smartphone models are getting diverted into the UAE from Asia and EU. With peak buying season coming up, UAE tech retailers have a fight on their hands. And they are fighting back. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Dubai: Grey market imports of the iPhone 14 models are streaming into the UAE and Gulf markets as they try to take advantage of the ongoing 2-4 week delay in delivery through most of the official vendors. The iPhone 14 Pro Max versions are what’s selling quite briskly in the grey market, at prices more or less on par with official rates.

While such parallel shipments have been there for years now, and spikes each time the latest version of a popular smartphone releases, UAE tech retailers were worried there would be a dumping of the model. More so, because shipments meant for the European markets could get diverted to the UAE/Gulf because of lackluster consumer demand in the EU.

Local retail sources say interest in Apple’s latest as well as flagship smartphones from Samsung and Huawei has been rising, with tourists to the UAE also helping with the demand. But any immediate non-availability is a chance for grey market sellers to exploit.

"Prices of the grey market iPhone 14 vary literally on a day-to-day basis and across models/colours - it's difficult to give a range," said Ashish Panjabi, COO at Jacky's Electronics. "It is a question of how much someone is willing to pay on a particular day for a colour/capacity/model combination."

There is limited supply of iPhone 14 as all capacity and colors are not available, with waiting time of 2-4 weeks. Parallel stocks are still flowing in to the market to augment supply shortages

- Ashish Panjabi, COO of Jacky's Electronics

On the iPhone 14, there is a markup in showroom prices compared to the previous version, and there’s still that 2-4 week gap between an order being placed and delivery. Those with imported handsets are offering deals at 5-15 per cent lower prices to buyers who want that immediate handover.

But Nilesh Khalko, CEO of Sharaf DG, says the problem is not with diversions from the EU. “We are yet to see dumping happen on the smartphone models from EU (specs outside UAE),” he added. “Most of the smartphones (currently) in the grey market have US, UK, Japan and Hong Kong specifications.”

Most of the smartphones (currently) in the grey market have US, UK, Japan and Hong Kong specifications

- Nilesh Khalko of Sharaf DG

To counter grey imports, vendors are using aggressive trade-in and cashback schemes to ensure buyers stick with them. "With the official warranty and aftersales support, retailers have the options to make it difficult for grey importers," said an industry source. "The biggest support, however, would be with trade-ins. Be generous on the trade-in pricing, and consumers will be ready to wait those two, three additional weeks."

The belief is that by mid-November, official vendors will have enough stock available. (This time, there is also the chance to sell to visitors coming for the FIFA World Cup and staying at hotels in the UAE. Plus, there will be the end-of-year holiday sales, and in November, there will be the massive promotions associated with the ‘Black Friday’.)

Stock - Sharaf DG Dubai Hills
Sharaf DG's Nilesh Khalko reckons rather than diverted shipments from the EU markets, it's those from Asia that are most visible in the UAE's grey market channels. Weak consumer demand in Asia and EU will continue to have ripples in the local market. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News Archive

Less demand in EU? No worries

Rajat Asthana is Head of Sales at Dubai-headquartered EROS Group. He for one is not too bothered about whether smartphone shipments meant for the EU gets diverted to the UAE. In fact, he reckons if there is less consumer demand in the EU – brought on by inflation and other worries – that translates into an advantage for UAE tech retailers – and by extension for consumers.

“Yes, this is a big issue right now which we see happening in terms of demand and drop in sales in EU,” said Asthana. “Dubai has always been an open market and will continue to have an open supply coming in from a lot of areas. So far, we haven't seen much of an impact of EU sellers dumping gadgets.

“While demand is very weak in the EU and US, we see that certain manufacturers are more willing to offer discounts on stock buying. So, if we are able to buy large stocks from some of our partners and manufacturers, we probably are able to get a better price - or discount - to buy which will translate to better prices for the consumer.

It's certainly helping us to buy at better prices, largely from some big Asian manufacturers. In such times, it’s best to have a diversified portfolio of brands and products coming from different parts of the world - East and West.

- Rajat Asthana of EROS Group

These are the Top 3 in-demand tech and electronics categories in UAE

  1. For mobiles, it's always Apple, with prices from Dh3,099 to Dh7,299, and Samsung, from Dh349 to Dh6,999.
  2. HP, Lenovo and ASUS are the Top 3 brands in the laptop category with prices from Dh998 to Dh3,299.
  3. For appliances it's largely Samsung, LG, Hitachi with prices ranging from Dh261 to Dh11,249.
Saleem Javed of Touchtell (Middle) says sizeable shipments of the iPhone 14 are heading for Russia these days even as demand caves in across the EU. Image Credit: Supplied
Russian demand is clearing iPhone 14 stocks
Consumer demand for expensive smartphone models may have slid in the EU, but not in Russia, by the looks of it.
“Russian demand has risen three-fold and there are smartphone shipments going from Dubai to Moscow,” said Saleem Javed, CEO of Touchtel llc. “We are buying stocks from the US, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore and shipping to Moscow. Demand with Russian retailers has gone up, due to which prices are also up. For example, the Apple Watch Ultra is being sold at a premium - and still there are no stocks.
“This is due to the Russian government pumping money into the economy. A sizeable number of Russians are employed with government organizations and they have been given bonuses to fight inflation, which has helped the retail in big way.”