Dubai: UAE’s shoppers are getting their digital wallets, payment cards and, in some cases, even cash ready for what is to be the biggest holiday sales quarter ever, with estimates forecasting $1.5 billion in sales across all online channels. If that number comes true, it would be higher by as much as 60 per cent over last year.
The discounts will be there, of course, with 40-50 per cent being the norm. But this year, shoppers can expect even more as retailers try to get them back into spending ways. “Given that customers have seen multiple discounts during July to September, we expect retailers will continue to give discounts of even higher than 70 per cent,” said Sandeep Ganediwalla, regional Partner at RedSeer Consulting.
And all that buying starts later today (October 13), with Amazon hosting a two-day ‘Prime Day’ promotion for its Prime subscribers, with 50 per cent discounts offered on multiple categories. (This year, household cleaning products get a special mention and discounts of 40 per cent.)
Then follows the Indian festival season of Diwali, which should unleash a fresh wave of buying and offering some welcome boost for fashion and accessories. Gold and jewellery retailers too will be hoping that some of that spending will come their way even with gold at $1,911 an ounce (or Dh219 a gram for 22K in Dubai Gold Rate).
Then follows the ‘white’ and ‘yellow’ versions of Black Friday sales, set for late November, and immediately followed by promotions geared towards UAE National Day. After all the distractions imposed by COVID-19, UAE consumers and retailers will be hoping for some normalcy from ordering a product… or even picking it up at a store.
“The last quarter has turned into an important shopping event in the UAE with online sales peaking,” said Ganediwalla. “It started as an online channel-focussed promotional quarter, but offline retailers will also be aggressive in their sales.”
Players who have been in pure online play have seen their business grow. But those who transitioned from offline to online have seen their online percentage of business go up - but not necessarily seen an overall growth in their business
In the year-to-date, groceries and consumer goods were the best performing categories in online sales, as shoppers switched to portals to stock up on their essential buys. Naturally, buying a new mobile or spending on the latest fashion wasn’t too high on the shopping list for most.
Demand for mobiles, even with new model launches (though the latest iPhone is yet to come), has been subdued. But has demand for mobiles cratered?
“It would be inappropriate to say that - market sentiments over the past six months have been such more consumers are delaying buying decisions, not only for mobiles, but for a lot of product categories,” said Niranjan Gidwani, independent consultant director and former CEO at Eros Group.
“Certain mid-range smartphone brands and categories have done well. However, the souq buying has dropped significantly while organised retail also slowed, all due to the lockdown. And the transitioning to online did not happen at the same pace in the initial stages of COVID-19.
“Online tech volumes’ share has almost doubled - from 12 per cent of the overall market last year to 23 per cent. Which means that almost one-fourth of the industry business has shifted to online.”
Again, the shift to online is benefiting pure-online only portals, while offline retailers are having to catch up by shifting some of their sales to their own online platforms.
Alex Tchablakian of LetsTango.com, a tech retailer, reckons that mobiles could yet make some sort of comeback. But with provisos attached.
“New flagship phones from brands that are not particularly known as a smartphone company are not doing as well,” said Tchablakian. “Considering their price points are much too high compared to the already established brands.
“Currently, many premium phones that are Dh4,000 plus are moving slower than mid-range models that consist of similar specs and making them a much better value for money.
“At the moment it is very hard to say when the new iPhone will reach. We do observe that Samsung now targets a different audience compared to their competitors, and they definitely have a strong future. There’s great demand for the Galaxy mid-range A and M series.”
RedSeer Consulting reckons that electronics sales could see a 30 per cent increase in sales during the Black Friday promotions compared to last year.
I can imagine a big commotion for the upcoming sales promotions this quarter. Not to mention with the release of the next-generation consoles of PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X
Fashion is back?
One category that has really suffered this year has been apparel and accessories. Except for the time when retailers in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah launched city-wide promotions in August and September with some of the steepest discounts ever, fashion has been a slow mover.
The next few weeks thus offers a chance to correct that and make something out of a torrid year. “
“Our research shows that this category will do well during the “festive” quarter as over 80 per cent customers are looking to buy fashion and take up beauty deals during this year’s Black Friday,” said Ganediwalla. “We expect categories such as shoes, bags and perfumes also to do well during this period.”
If retailers in the UAE can get shoppers to release some of their pent up spending, touching an all-time last quarter sales high will prove easy. But there is one category that will have another bumper quarter – grocery, with online sales likely to see a triple-digit growth over the final quarter of 2019.
We expect this Black Friday season to be most omni-channel event with more than 75 per cent of customers saying they are “very likely” to buy from both online and offline channels