Some UAE retailers are bringing the tactics that America’s biggest retailers use for Black Friday to the region, with some holding the event for three days and some for more than a week. Image Credit: Agency

Dubai: Online retailers in the UAE are launching their pre-holiday sales promotions on Wednesday, in a bid to give the e-commerce sector a shot in the arm.

Many retailers are bringing the tactics that America’s biggest retailers use for Black Friday to the region; however, they are launching their promotions using different names, such as White Friday, Shopathon (Shopping + Marathon) and Winter Festival.

Souq.com was the first to launch a Black Friday sale in the Middle East in 2014 but christened it ‘White Friday,’ as a sign of respect to Friday, which is a day of worship, gathering, friends and family in the Arab world.

Black Friday, the Friday after Thanksgiving (November 27), has emerged as the busiest shopping day of the year in the US, with retailers offering huge discounts and attractive time-constraint deals. Black Friday also launches the Christmas shopping season. Retailers in the UAE acknowledged the odd fact that their White Friday sales were actually starting on a Wednesday, but defended the practice saying that most consumers would not understand a Black (or White) Wednesday event.

A similar concept in China, known as Singles Day on November 11, saw the online giant Alibaba generate more than $14 billion worth of e-commerce sales in just 24 hours.

Usually, Black Friday sales lasts for 24 hours but many retailers in the UAE are holding the event for three days — November 25-28 — and some for one week.

Souq is offering 10,000 exclusive deals compared to 2,000 last year and predicts it will sell two items every second.

“We get 45 million visits a month and are hoping to get tenfold increase in visits during the event. We expect a massive sell out on the first day with over one million products on the site. Last year, we sold 285,000 products and hopes to double its sales value and units this year,” said Ronaldo Mouchawar, CEO and co-Founder of Souq.com.

With more people shopping online, e-commerce sales are poised to hit record numbers in 2015, growing 11 per cent over last year to reach $83 billion in sales globally.

According to Adobe’s 2015 online holiday sales forecast, announced recently, Black Friday is predicted to see $2.7 billion in sales after Cyber Monday’s $3 billion. Mobile will drive the majority of online shopping visits (51 per cent) for the first time on Thanksgiving Day, and mobile shopping will also replace desktop shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday used to be the time when American returned to work following the Thanksgiving holiday and used their employer’s internet access as a way to shop online; however, Cyber Monday as a specific day is beginning to fade to the rise in mobile data.

Nikola Koustic, retail analyst at Euromonitor, said that the ‘Black Friday’ concept is gaining traction in the region. Moreover, as there is a slowdown in economy, the retailers are trying to boost sales by offering discounts wherever and whenever possible.

LetsTango is offering between 30 and 40 per cent on selected electronics products or bundle offers, 50-60 per cent on accessories, and 60-70 per cent on fashion products from November 27-30.

“We are refraining from calling it ‘Black Friday’ and instead named it as ‘Winter Festival’. We have taken feedback from customers on their sale preferences. We are also offering a crazy deal of the day till December 2,” said Parag Mehta, head of operations at LetsTango.com.

“We are expecting a 50 per cent year-on-year growth,” he said.

Omar Abushaban, General Manager of Plug Ins, said that they are not doing any bundle offers as online consumers are different; they look for price promotions.

“We are offering up to 60 per cent on some products. Smartphones, especially iPhones, will be in high demand,” he said.

As the online channel grows, he said that White Friday — Plug Ins is referring to it as White Friday — will be become a bigger part of every retailer.

“Our logistics team has been beefed up to accommodate the high volume of deliveries and transactions. We have spoken to many vendors and managed to get very exclusive offers with multiple brands,” said Sherif Rizwan, chief executive of AlShop.com.

“We are selling some products for up to 75 per cent off. Many customers are aware of the discounted seasonal sales in other countries and they expect it to be here also, that is why we are repeating our offers this also,” he said.

Wadi.com is calling the day Shopathon, which runs from Nov. 23-28th.

“Smartphones are going to be the main driver for growth. We are offering up to 80 per cent off on certain products,” Ankit Wadhwa, managing director of Wadi.com.

He said the six-day sales will contribute to around 30-35 per cent of our one-month total sales. He said Apple products are by far the best selling brand for the company.