With retailers across the board trying to outdo each other by offering bigger promotions and discounts, customers are certainly spoilt for choice. Photo for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/XPRESS

Dubai: 70 per cent Off...Bundle Offers.... Cash Back Vouchers... Amazingly Low Prices...

In a city where sales and promotions are a year-long affair, you could be forgiven for dismissing the Dubai Shopping Festival as just another sales season. And if you are blasé about the bargains, it's not your fault. DSF comes right after Christmas and New Year when you could still be suffering from sales fatigue.

Make no mistake. With 6,000 retail outlets and dozens of malls offering discount sales up to 75 per cent, nothing comes even remotely close to DSF. It's the mother of all sales events.

Rahul Saxena, Head of Marketing at Babyshop, said, "DSF is the first shopping festival of its scale in the region and definitely holds an advantage. It is a period when most retailers across categories try very hard to attract customers, and coming right after the festive season, the offer has to be compelling enough to get a fair share of the wallet. The festivities and events held across the city ensure that shoppers keep coming back to the malls and give retailers a better opportunity to sell."

The figures say it all. Just this week, Global Village reported a record 500,000 shoppers in the first 10 days of the sale. Around 100,000 visited the festival on Friday alone. A sizeable chunk of the teeming crowds at malls like Dubai Mall - which became the world's most visited shopping destination by welcoming more than 54 million visitors in 2011 ahead of even New York and Las Vegas - is also clocked in during this period. Most malls report a 20-30 per cent increase in footfall during DSF, with sales of individual brands going up by 20 per cent.

Anchor retailers or the main stores do particularly well, according to Neelesh Bhatnagar, Director, Oasis Centre. "Anchor retailers at malls of our size wield an especially strong pull factor during this period. Owing to the lucrative shopping experience offered during the festival, Oasis Centre records a jump of over 20 per cent in footfall year after year," said Bhatnagar.

Winning Strategy

An inviting discount is a significant part of this winning strategy.

Discounts are a specific type of marketing promotion which allows shoppers to save money on specific products. It is used when retailers want to mark special occasions, introduce new products, retain existing customers, clear old stock or drive revenue growth.

Not surprisingly, there are several discount sales in a year.

"We offer six to seven main promotions in a year. They include DSF, Dubai Summer Surprises (DSS), WWS (World Without Strangers), Ramadan, Back to School and Year-end Promotion, besides various mall promotions," said Sajid Sayed, General Manager of Giordano, which is participating in DSF in two formats - bundle offers in regular stores where customers can avail higher discounts with more purchases and a 25-70 per cent mark down at four other stores. "These promotions vary from each other in terms of the value given back to the consumer," he said.

During DSF - as with DSS and Year-end Promotion - the idea is to give the consumer more in terms of value for purchases made. The Ramadan sale, in contrast, is oriented more towards giving back to the community through involvement in various initiatives, while the WWS promotion is a customer loyalty programme which gives members an extra benefit through double points or double discounts.

"Each sale event has a different purpose - while some may be meant to incentivise shopping for customers ahead of a festive season, others are part of a seasonal launch calendar. These are a factor of different business considerations," said Saxena of Babyshop, which is offering discounts up to 60 per cent across product categories at its standalone stores.

Although part sales dominate, it's a good deal that defines the DSF promotion. Nothing illustrates this better than the deals on televisions and electronics - vouchers of up to Dh400 against televisions worth Dh1,199 or more at Plug-ins, Dh500 vouchers against the Dh2,349 Nokia Smartphone N9 at Carrefour and so forth.

"The prices are very attractive," said Vandana, a tourist from Mumbai who made a special trip to Dubai for the festival with a single-point agenda to shop. Between Thursday and Sunday last, she had covered eight malls, including two trips to the Mall of the Emirates, besides the Gold Souq and Meena Bazaar in Bur Dubai.

"I saw a pair of Burberry boots for Dh957 (original cost of Dh1,595) and a Gucci bag at a 30 per cent discount on its original price of Dh4,400 at Bloomingdales. At Rivoli, they will give me a half back voucher if I go in for the Omega watch I want to buy," she said as she went on her rounds.

Additional discounts

Even at the Outlet Mall, where retailers must contractually commit to a year-round minimum discount of 30 per cent with the mall management, additional discounts are on offer - from The One's additional 10 per cent over its usual 30-75 per cent markdown to Studio R's 25 per cent cash-back on even a Dh10 purchase.

"I picked up 10 shirts for infants at Dh180. DSF is the time I stock up, whether it is stuff I need, or gifts for others," said Daniela, a German resident from Mirdif shopping at the Outlet Mall.

"Bargain hunters are in for a treat during this period," said Vishal Mahajan, the mall's director.

Worldwide, consumers say they are no longer attracted by big discounts. Besides blaming it on the recession, they claim there is no longer a sense of urgency when it comes to a sale. The general thinking is that another one will be announced soon enough. In fact, some brands are always on sale.

But the DSF promotion beats the odds. Over the last 15 years, the festival has established itself as a shopping-cum-entertainment extravaganza. As a result the cultural and leisure component commands a fair share of the shopper's attention. From fun-filled children's events, fireworks and fashion shows to visiting artists, raffles and musical shows, there's enough to reinvigorate even the most sale-weary consumer.

What is a Discount?

A discount is a specific type of marketing promotion which allows shoppers to save money on specific products. It is used when retailers want to mark special occasions, introduce new products, retain existing customers, clear old stock or drive revenue growth.