Stock shopping Dubai mall of the emirates
UAE shoppers are not in the mood to miss out on some shopping in the next few weeks. Retailers will be doing all they can to benefit from those cravings. Image Credit: Antonin Kélian Kallouche/Gulf News

Dubai: This should give some relief to retailers – nearly 50 per cent of shoppers in the UAE intend to maintain the same spending levels on gifts over the next few weeks as they did last year. As end-of-year sales get underway at stores and online portals, consumers seem willing to shed worries about their jobs and future and engage in some serious retail therapy.

Soon, the 75- and 90 per cent discounts will start to appear on storefronts and online sites, which will be the cue for shoppers to decide what to buy and when.

Not just that, once they make a purchase, shoppers are less likely to want to make a return on some of the goods purchased. This year, they don’t want to go through the hassle, according to an Oracle survey of consumer trends in the lead up to the holiday and gifting season. If 74 per cent of shoppers surveyed planned to make some returns last year, this year’s tally drops to 54 per cent.

If the COVID-19 environment has brought some change in mindset about returns, retailers will be only too glad – all those returns can seriously add to their costs. In a year when cost cutting has been the norm, retailers are hoping to catch a break.

Stock shopping Dubai mall of the emirates
Click, collect or in-store? The choices for shoppers are many, and click-and-collect is finally emerging as a category in itself. Image Credit: Antonin Kelian Kallouche/Gulf News

Here’s what the Oracle poll on likely trends could be between now and December 31, 2020 suggest:

• 56 per cent of consumers plan to spend more on apparel

• 49 per cent - more on electronics

• 27 per cent - more on sporting goods

• 26 per cent - of consumers plan to spend more on gift cards

• 27 per cent - more on luxury items

Boost for stores too

While online retail channels could pick up the bulk of the holiday season spending – if that happens it would be for the first time - malls and stores still figure in shoppers’ plans.

According to the Oracle findings, 12 per cent of UAE shoppers plan to do most of their buying in-store and another 51 per cent plan to split between both online and brick-and-mortar. And there is a sizeable 19 per cent willing to “make it as close as the parking lot, opting to retrieve orders via click-to-collect”. Retailers such as Carrefour have taken note, with click-and-collect signs now popping up at more of their locations.

While 33 per cent of shoppers felt safest in an indoor mall, 21 per cent preferred outdoor shopping venues; and 46 per cent were fine with either with the proper safety precautions.

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Buying time

According to ArabClicks, a marketing network that tracks online spending, by the end of the first week of November, shoppers would be ready to move from “window shopping” towards the “big shop”. This is the phase when they browse for the best deals in the online universe.

Then comes the “last chance” phase, which is when prices drop further after November 30 and continues for a further two weeks or so. This is the time for last-minute deals.

“The holidays promise to test retailer’s ability to serve customers how and where they want to shop,” said Mike Webster, Senior Vice-President and General Manager at Oracle Retail. “With customers shopping both online and in-store - and taking advantage of new retrieval options such as curbside pick-up and buy online pick up in-store - retailers are going to have to be firing on all cylinders to meet customer expectations in an already difficult environment.”

If retailers manage to do that, it should convince shoppers that buying in November or December is value-for-money. Also, some companies are gradually starting to reinstate full salaries, and this too could be a spur, at least among those who are now receiving their full cheques.

“We are seeing that Ramadan was relatively muted because of the lockdown and economic situation,” said Sandeep Ganediwalla, regional Partner at RedSeer Consulting. “The next big season in the retail calendar is Black/White/Yellow Friday.

“Our research shows increased excitement for this event across all retail verticals and even service sectors. We do expect this to be the biggest sales quarter, especially on the online channel.”

Have the stocks and smiles ready

Unhelpful staff and a lack of inventory remain the pet peeves of shoppers. “During the holidays it will be critical for retailers to fill the shelves and use their physical locations both to serve shoppers and as fulfillment centers to handle online orders and get shipments out to customers quickly,” said Webster.

Plus, all customer facing staff need to make that extra effort as:

• 49 per cent of respondents in the Oracle survey said unhelpful staff topped their list for a bad shopping experience;

• 48 per cent noted out-of-stock merchandise; another 61 per cent said they weren’t willing to wait for an item to be back in stock before they trying another brand;

• 45 per cent citied a difficult exchange/return policy; and

• 43 per cent said a long, slow checkout experience or queuing outside.

Get all these right, and UAE shoppers will be back to spend... even with a COVID-19 on.