Eid decorations at Dubai Mall
UAE's malls and stores are in for a bonanza as consumers reset their weekend schedules. F&B and entertainment businesses too will be big winners. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: The UAE’s retail and leisure sector will emerge as the biggest winner of the shift to a new – and extended – weekend from January, as maintaining a work-life balance assumes even more importance.

Within this, sales on Sunday will likely see the biggest gains as UAE residents rearrange what they should be doing in their altered weekend schedules. Until now, “sales on Sunday was always on the slower side because residents would try and cram in everything into Fridays and Saturdays, and even a bit of late Thursday shopping,” said a retailer.

“But with the new weekend cycle, consumer spending on Sundays is in for a significant leap – that’s the clincher.”

The way retailers see it now, they will get an extended sales bounce from Thursday evenings all the way up to close-of-business on Sundays.

Amending the working week comes at a timely manner as it ensures a better and stronger integration of the UAE's financial market with international financial markets. Such a change would enable businesses, especially ones with global presence, to further align their operations on an international scale as part of the UAE's efforts to realise its economic and trade goals over the next 50 years

- Abdulnasser Alshaali, a UAE economist

Stretching the possibilities

This is how the retail sector sees demand patterns shaping up – late Thursday, they expect a steady increase in sales as federal and local government employees prepare for the half-day on Friday and then Saturdays and Sundays. By Friday evenings, they will be joined in by their peers in the private sector, as they prepare for their weekends. (In Sharjah, that pattern will start from Wednesday evenings.)

They are also hopeful that they can manage to keep sales from dropping too drastically on Mondays, which is now the official start to the week.

“Weekend sales never fell into a Friday to end Saturday pattern – weekend shopping always tend to start from Thursdays,” the source added. “This will be the same pattern for the F&B and cinema operators – from January, there is this chance to win more business.”

Echoing industry-wide sentiments, Eti Bhasin, owner of the F&B joint Dhaba Lane, "Restaurants located in residential areas would benefit from more dine-in sales, whereas in commercial areas, delivery sales could easily go up. Overall, a boost in restaurant business is likely to happen with this initiative."

They are also hopeful that they can manage to keep sales from dropping too drastically on Mondays, which is now the official start to the week.

UAE's F&B operators are all for it
UAE's F&B industry is in no doubt as to what the the weekend change will mean for them.

"For restaurants, having an extra half day means it will help in generating more revenues," said Rayyan Rizvi Managing Partner at Yoko Sizzlers.

"Also, expect an influx of tourists as people from nearby European and Asian countries will frequent their families a lot more in the UAE because of the aligned holidays, which will generate more revenue for the hospitality industry."

A big moment

The weekend switch will be a defining moment for the country’s brick-and-mortar retail. Sure, online sales will continue to zoom along, but stores and malls will be where consumers will want to be now that many of them will have more time on their hands from Friday afternoon to late Sunday.

“It will no one’s idea of work-life balance by sitting at home and shopping online,” said the CEO at one of the biggest tech retailers in the country. “The weekend change is an invitation for residents to get more from their off-times. Retailers and anyone offering ‘experience’ will benefit from the consumer shift.”

While there is a hybrid working model followed across many organisations, this latest announcement is a major step towards ensuring that mental health and the social lives of people are consistently prioritized towards a stronger, more fulfilled nation and the world at large.

- Michel Ayat, CEO of AWR Automotive

Awaiting the big decisions

Starting next week, there will be more clarity on which businesses and sectors will adopt the change in full. “Though the new weekend is technically meant for government offices in UAE, it is almost certain most corporates will also adopt the new weekend to align themselves with the norm,” said Atik Munishi, Managing Partner at the consultancy Inexpertiza.

“Some progressive businesses are also likely to have a four-and-a-half day week to provide more conducive work-life balance to its staff.”

Multiplex businesses too will see the lift from the new weekend timings as UAE consumers chase experiences and leisure pursuits outside of their homes. Image Credit: Supplied