Dubai Duty Free Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Despite growing passenger numbers, consumer spending on tax-free merchandise at Dubai airports has suffered a slump.

According to the latest figures released on Thursday, Dubai Duty Free sales reached Dh6.673 billion in 2016, down by approximately 3.17 per cent from 2015.

Perfumes remained the best seller, registering Dh1.104 billion in sales, down from Dh1.137 billion in 2015. Bottles of beverages and bubbly generated Dh1.063 billion in sales, down from Dh1.069 billion in 2015. Cigarettes and tobacco were last year’s third-most popular item, with sales reaching Dh578.53 million, compared to Dh589.67 million in 2015.

Total number of customer transactions, however, increased to 27.119 million, up by 1 per cent from more than 26 million in 2015.

On average, Dubai Duty Free recorded 74,097 sales transactions per day across its outlets in Dubai International and Al Maktoum International Airports last year.

Colm McLoughlin, executive vice chairman and CEO of DDF, attributed the decline in sales to foreign exchange fluctuations.

"It has been a challenging year for retail overall and for the travel retail industry worldwide, mainly due to currency fluctuations," he said.

 DDF is considered one of the world’s biggest travel retail operators, employing more than 5,000 workers. When it started its operations in 1983, its one-year sales reached $20 million (Dh73.4 million).

Official data showed that flyer traffic passing through Dubai’s airports has been growing, reaching more than 75.9 million from January to November 2016, up 7 per cent from the same period in 2015.

In February last year, DDF opened 7,000 square metres of retail space in Concourse D, the newest terminal in Dubai International, bringing the total retail area under its management in Dubai to 36,000 square metres.

McLoughlin said there is a lot more to look forward to this year, including the improvement of their retail offering at both Dubai International Airport’s Concourse C and Al Maktoum International Airport’s Passenger Terminal Building.

“In Concourse C, we have just opened our outlets in the area that links Concourse C to Concourse B, and we will fully renovate the retail areas in the rest of departures and apron levels of Concourse C over the course of the year,” he said.

“We are also looking forward to developing our DDF leisure business. The Irish Village in Garhoud was voted the Irish Pub of the Year at the Irish Pubs Global Awards ceremony in Dublin, and we opened the second Irish Village in the Dubai Parks and Resorts complex in December 2016. The Jumeirah Creekside Hotel continues to do well, and you will see new food and beverage outlets in this hotel during the course of the year.”