Stock Dubai shoppers
Consumers at a shopping mall in Dubai Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: Has the pandemic changed people’s shopping habits in Dubai? Are they buying just the basics or are indulging themselves again? Are they going online or are they back to store-hopping?

Gulf News spoke to a cross-section of residents and their answers were quite revealing. Much as COVID-19 had brought about a shift in their shopping patterns last year, it seems it’s beginning to feel like old times again. Call it retail therapy or a just a desire to hit the malls, shopping appears to be back in full swing, with residents trying to make the most of the sales, deals and other promotions on offer.

Perfect excuse to shop

Iraqi Canadian expat Suhair Sharaf, 52, an entrepreneur, said that during the pandemic, the family spent more time at home, which made it a perfect excuse to refurnish the place. “The TV room was most used, so we bought an extremely comfortable sofa that extends across the entire room. It gives us the feel of being in a movie theatre.”

Sharaf said the sofa cost the family Dh32,000 after a 10 per cent discount. “It has made our movie-watching experience very enjoyable.”

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Suhair Sharaf Image Credit: Supplied

The family also purchased a sofa and chair set for Dh13,000 (after a 15 per cent discount). “It is the perfect match for a large painting that is hung behind it,” she added.

Sharaf said she also purchased a treadmill during the lockdown as gyms were not operating.

Back to socialising

Back to socialising with safty precuations, Sharaf said she has bought some loungewear too. She said she has started going out to restaurants after they reopened and loves dressing up for the occasion.

What is retail therapy?
The premise behind retail therapy is that someone who embarks on a shopping spree feels good about it as shopping can lift their mood. This is especially true when people are depressed or stressed. The therapeutic value of shopping in the context of the pandemic has also been a subject of much discussion.

“I bought a few summer dresses online and from boutiques in Dubai. It is hard to avoid buying luxury items such as designer handbags and shoes in Dubai. I have my favourites,” she said.

Sharaf said with her children going back to school, they have also been busy shopping for school uniforms, laptops and other requirements.

Bargain buys

Slovakian expat Katarina Elavia Seresova, 35, a fitness instructor, said she too has been on a shopping spree. She bought two dresses for Dh1,200 and Dh600 at a mall. “I shop online as well. In fact, I get tempted when my friends post pictures of their outfits. Once I set my eye on something, I check out the shop’s website and choose something for myself from their collection,” said Seresova.

Katarina Elavia Seresova Image Credit: Supplied

But if she had a choice, she would visit the store. “Nothing like trying an outfit before buying it,” she says.

She feels fashion garments have become more expensive, especially in the case of some popular brands. So she keeps a close watch for bargains and grabs them when she gets a chance.

Indian expat Twinkle Stanislaus Chettiar, 45, says she is constantly looking for discounts.

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Twinkle Chettiar Image Credit: Supplied

“I mostly shop at the mall and it is unbelievable to see some discounts by retailers. I recently bought an outfit whose price had dropped to Dh39 from Dh199.”
An online shopper too, Chettiar said she buys pet food and fitness-related accessories, besides clothes, from websites.

Elena Pak, 36, accountant, another Ukranian expat, is not a shopaholic. She is careful about what she wants to buy and usually gets them at discounted rates.

Elena Pak Image Credit: Supplied

“I would definitely like to see more discounts. We are in the middle of a pandemic and prices are way too high. Groceries, especially organic products, are still highly priced. The world economy has changed and retailers need to lower their prices.”

When shopping is a social experience

Ukranian expat Krynytska Elena, 55, marketing director at a consultancy company, loves shopping at the malls in dubai. “I love shoes and have a collection of them. They are very comfortable and offer a good balance. On my birthday, I wrote a list for my friends on what I wanted as gifts and I got them all,” she said, with a smile on her face.

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Krynytska Elena Image Credit: Supplied

Elena got herself a designer pearl necklace and earrings too.

She admitted she doesn’t enjoy shopping online.

“Shopping is a very social thing for me. I enjoy the process of visiting stores, meeting the staff, trying outfits and shoes. It is a very cherished feeling.:

Brisk sales, say retailers

Ascots & Chapels, a British luxury couturier that specialises in creating bespoke garments for men, is recording brisk sales. “We are back to the pre-pandemic level. Our main focus now is on evaluating consumer trends in the market, and understanding their needs so we can react to their needs better,” said Gary Sweeney, brand and style director at Ascots & Chapels.

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Gary Sweeney Image Credit: Supplied

“The main thing which we have observed is that due to COVID-19, there has been an acceleration of the change in men’s wear and in men’s fashion, particularly in men’s day-to-day dressing. Demand for tailored suits is very much here. People still want to wear a well-cut suit, but their choice of fabric may be changing or evolving. For example, rather than choosing a three-piece charcoal suit, they are now opting for tailored separates,” he said, adding that his clients comprise mainly western expats from Europe, US and Canada, besides India and the local population.

Even with evergreen purchsaes like groceries, there has been a discernable trend.

Dhananjay Datar Image Credit: Supplied

Dhananjay Datar, chairman and managing director, Al Adil Trading, said: “UAE residents have enhanced their retail spends, especially when it comes to grocery purchases. People have become more health conscious because of which, there is more cooking happening at home. So they are buying more food stuffs. We have also noticed that there is a huge demand for products that help to increase the immunity level.”

What about electronics?

Ashish Panjabi, chief operating officer at tech and electronics major Jacky’s, said: “For us, retail never really stopped. Technology products have been in demand throughout and the bigger challenge has been securing enough supply due to disruptions in global supply chains.

Ashish Panjabi, Jacky's Group
Ashish Panjabi Image Credit: Gulf News archives

"We are now launching the two new smartphones from Samsung, the Galaxy Z Fold3 and Galaxy Z Flip3. Pre-bookings for both have been very strong and better than the those of the previous generation devices. We expect to see a strong quarter ahead as more device launches are due to take place in the fourth quarter and as we head into the traditional gifting season.”