Shoppers at Deira City Centre. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: Local retailers have been quick to say they are keen on launching operations in Iran, which for many years had limited options on offer for its consumers.

As of now, the Iranian marketplace has a surfeit of home-grown as well as cheap Chinese- and Indian-made products as the years of US and European Union imposed sanctions prevented many global firms from selling there.

Iran  and six world powers—the US, France, Britain, Germany, China and Russia—  reached a framework agreement on curbing its nuclear programme on Thursday.

The nation accepted restrictions on its nuclear facilities in exchange for the gradual lifting of international sanctions, which have stunted the growth of its economy, following nearly two years of contentious negotiations, culminating in eight days of marathon talks with the six world powers in Switzerland. The framework agreement is not a final deal. Negotiators hope to strike that by June 30.

The consumer electronics retailer Emax is looking to enter the Iranian market — which has a sizeable youth demographic among its 80 million population — through new showrooms. “Iran has been deprived of a lot of international brands for a long time ... so we would like to be one of the early boomers,” said Neelesh Bhatnagar, chief executive.

According to Kamal Vachani, director of the Al Maya Group which operates a supermarket chain, his company is interested in distributing food and opening outlets in Iran. “Iran is a big market. It’s worth looking at,” he said.

Lifting of sanctions would result in “larger UAE developers and retailers moving quickly to secure the best sites and locations in anticipation of a surge in retail demand,” Colin Beaton, managing director of Limelight Creative Services, said by email. “The proximity of Iran to the UAE and its large population provides a sizeable market that has seen little retail development in the past few years.”

The Iranian retail market’s value is expected to grow from $133.58 million (Dh490.23 million) this year to $156.5 million in 2019, according to data from Euromonitor International, the research firm. “There is a strong network inside Iran of traditional bazaars that manage and control the distribution of the majority of consumer goods,” it said in a report published last month. “This network includes key importers and wholesalers.”

Bhatnagar said lifting of sanctions would help boost UAE’s re-exports. “Exports to Iran will be official — today there is possibly stuff going to Iran. The UAE’s re-export market will open up very much,” he said.

Beaton echoed a similar view — the lifting of sanctions would “release a significant amount of capital for investment and demand for products, both import and export.”