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Shopping is a core part of Dubai’s identity and one of the main leisure activities to take part in throughout the year. Dubai usually hosts two major shopping events annually; The Dubai Summer Surprises (DSS) and the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF). There are of course a few pop-ups here and there, mid-season sales, end of season sales, and so on. You can almost never pay full price for anything in Dubai if you are patient enough.

DSF has been around for 25 years, while DSS is celebrating its 23rd year this summer. This year’s shopping event is a very special one, however. It’s the first major event in the city since the COVID-19 outbreak, so in a way, the sales signs and the malls returning back to 100 per cent capacity is a symbol of life returning (almost) back to normal in Dubai.

Even in the most normal of circumstances, the UAE’s summer months were always accompanied by a bit of a lull. This is the time of the year where many expats were “going home for the summer”. As a means to combat quiet summers, Dubai Summer Surprises was introduced to UAE residents, over two decades ago.

The shopping and entertainment event gave people something to do beyond being cooped up at home or office. A sure way to get people out of the house and into the malls.

This year, the festival kicked off with a 12-hour sale last Thursday that ran f until 10pm at Majid Al Futtaim owned malls in Dubai. Shoppers who ventured to the malls could pick up what they wanted at 25 to 90 per cent off. Based on initial signs - the sale signs seem to have removed the fear factor in shopping during a global pandemic.

It worked

The moment I stepped into the mall I saw a rare and unusual phenomenon. 60 people lined up outside luxury brand Chanel, while somewhat maintaining social distancing. This a place you would typically pay Dh12,000 to Dh18,000 for a handbag.

Confused I decided to investigate. Chanel was offering 40 per cent off shoes and accessories. Any bags? No. But still. A discount at Chanel is usually unheard of. As I chatted to people leaving the store, they revealed that they’ve been waiting for over 45 minutes to enter.

“This is unheard of - this never happens,” said Zahra Shinwari, a Dubai resident said to Gulf News. “A sale at a designer store like this is so unusual.”

For Melanie Zarife, it meant heading out as soon as “I got an SMS from them announcing this sale.” She and about thousands of other people on Chanel’s mailing list. It seems luxury retailers are also getting in on the action.

Fast fashion was, however, the main draw at the sale. Brands like Zara, Massimo Dutti, American Eagle, Mango, H&M and Forever 21 also added to the sales pitch. Hundreds of people at the malls trying to snatch a bargain.

“Today I chose to come to the mall instead of shop online because I wanted to buy my stuff right away,” NataliaNatelia, a Dubai resident told Gulf News. “I prefer to instantly have my stuff, rather than wait a few days. I am mainly here to buy clothing. Another benefit of being at the mall is the chance to meet up with some friends.”

On July 7, Dubai officially opened the city and began welcoming tourists to come and visit the country. Just in time for the DSSs. Gulf News spoke to Ziad, a tourist visiting the UAE and taking advantage of the sales at Dubai Mall. “I am a tourist visiting the country,” Ziad told Gulf News. “I am staying with my friend, he’s Emirati and he is showing me around Dubai and obviously Dubai Mall is on our list of things to do. I bought a keyboard cover and we are just browsing the mall and then I will probably stay to grab a bite to eat.”

Many residents didn’t need DSS as an excuse to come to the mall. “We are just doing some shopping and we are going to get a coffee from Starbucks,” Mother-daughter duo Sahar and Farrah told Gulf News. “It’s just a nice change from being at home all the time. To be honest, this isn’t our first time at the mall, we’ve already been out a few times. We feel completely safe, so we are happy to be here.”

Another Dubai resident, Nada, shares the same sentiment. “To be honest, I am shopping because I’ve been stuck at home for too long and I love going to the mall, specifically Dubai mall, as it’s my favourite place to shop,” Nada told Gulf News. “I am here to check out the summer sales, so I bought shoes and a dress. My friends and I all bought dresses actually.”

Key takeaways

-The malls are in fact filling up, as shoppers head down to take advantage of the summer sales.

-Many UAE residents also feel confident and safe going out in the UAE and the 40 to 70 per cent markdowns are encouraging spending and economic support.

-People in malls are following the government-enforced rules including wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and limiting the number of people inside of the stores.