Laila Mohammad Suhail, CEO, Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment, says the past 20 editions of the festival have seen shoppers spend more than Dh145 billion Image Credit: Supplied

A month-long shopping and entertainment extravaganza that started this year on January 1, the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) is a retail celebration renowned across the world for its incredible deals and promotions.

Laila Mohammad Suhail, CEO of the Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment, an agency of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, which organises DSF, expects shoppers from around the world to set cash registers ringing for retailers for the 2016 edition with about Dh15 billion expected to be spent during the course of the 32-day shopping festival.

“DSF has generated a total spend of more than Dh145 billion over the last 20 years,” Suhail tells GN Focus. “While it is too early to forecast an exact figure [for 2016], we have typically seen total spending of around Dh15 billion every year during DSF.

“Our retailers achieve about 25-30 per cent of their annual sales, which is a clear indication of the success of the longest-running festival of its kind in the world.”
While it might be too early to comment on specific financial figures, Karim Beg, Head of Marketing, Middle East at Visa, predicts a spending increase from DSF 2015, which posted some record results, as tourists from around the globe join in the emirate’s spending spree.

“We are looking forward to yet another year of solid results, building on the encouraging results and growth we saw in DSF 2015,” he says. “The total Visa card spend in the first two weeks of DSF 2015, between January 1 to January 15, rose by 12 per cent compared to the same period [in 2014].

“Visitors from the Middle East and North Africa spent a total of $96.75 million [Dh355 million] on Visa cards during the first half of DSF 2015 and in terms of international and domestic spending growth, restaurants were among the top categories, at 31 per cent, with Visa cardholders spending $53.7 million in 2015, up from $40.9 million recorded in the same category at DSF 2014.”

Other high-growth categories include consumer electronics at 22 per cent and supermarkets at 14 per cent. Transaction rose from $30.5 million to $37.2 million and from $107.6 million to $122.2 million, respectively, adds Beg. Fashion retail ranked first in spending volumes, accounting for $151.2 million of total international and domestic spending in the first two weeks of DSF 2015. Visa has a number of DSF offers this year, says Beg.

“Visa has launched the Impossible Deals campaign, which will offer cardholders a limited number of impossible deals, representing up to 80 per cent off on a range of electronics, travel, entertainment, luxury goods and automobiles. The campaign that started on January 1 and  runs until February 1, will unveil one impossible deal a day through the DSF month.”

Now in its 21st year, DSF — which has earned the title of the longest running and the largest shopping festival in the world — has attracted more than 56 million visitors to the emirate over the past two decades, resulting in a massive boost to the economy.

Starting with a few malls when it made its Dubai debut, DSF today involves more than 70 participating malls and 6,000 retail outlets, offering shoppers discounts of up to 75 per cent on everything ranging from clothes to cars, jewellery and electronics.

Fuad Mansoor Sharaf, Senior Director for Property Development — Shopping Malls for Majid Al Futtaim, says DSF 2016 will build on the success of previous years, and is hoping for a bumper revenues across its malls.

DSF is a major annual draw for retailers, too, as they slash prices to increase footfall over the month-long shopping binge.

“As a strategic partner for more than two decades, Majid Al Futtaim sees it as a platform for innovation that enables us to exceed our visitors’ expectations in delivering first looks at new fashion collections, compelling entertainment, and dynamic family and winning experiences,” says Sharaf. “DSF is a crucial part of how we continue to deliver great moments for everyone, every day in our destinations after more than 20 years of partnership with the festival.”

The Majid Al Futtaim group will be unveiling a host of surprises for shoppers throughout the shopping bonanza, says Sharaf. “Mall of the Emirates, Deira City Centre Deira, Mirdif City Centre and for the first time, Me’aisem City Centre, will host unrivalled experiences that excite and reward customers, whether they are frequent visitors or tourists from the wider region as well as emerging markets.”

Diana Jarmalaite, Research Analyst with Euromonitor International, gave her predictions for the expected boost to Dubai’s economy for this year’s DSF.
“Based on the estimation, Euromonitor International would expect DSF’s contribution to be around Dh600-Dh700 million in 2016,” she explains.

Nikola Kosutic, Research Manager at Euromonitor International, says retail spending in the UAE overall would rise by 7.7 per cent in 2015/2016, 7.6 per cent in 2016/17, and 7.7 per cent in 2017/18.

Electronics and appliance specialist retailers will record the biggest increase by the end of the financial year, predicted the analyst, followed by leisure and personal goods retailers.

Retail spend is expected to increase to Dh204 billion in the coming years, with the Expo 2020 set to give a strong boost to the sector. DSF, which marks its 25th anniversary in 2020, is expected to be a key contributor to growth.

Meanwhile, the current edition celebrates the theme Unwrap The Exceptional. With the retail sector continuing to be DSF’s main pillar, the 21st festival runs under a platform of retail concepts that see the festival divided into four weekly segments: Beauty Week, Gold and Jewellery Week, Apparel & Fashion Week, and Perfume Week.

DSF is usually a mix of successful campaigns and new retail concepts and this year is no different. While concepts such as The Market Outside the Box should grab eyeballs,  the daily Infiniti Mega Raffle is back as well, offering Dh500,000 in prizes including a Nissan Infiniti QX70 and Dh200,000 in cash.