People shopping during the Opening of Market OTB the part of DSF at South bridge Park Down town Dubai. Image Credit: Arshad Ali/Gulf News

Dubai: Local merchandise sold out of colourful shipping containers attracted crowds at the start of the Dubai Shopping Festival’s (DSF) Market Out of the Box (OTB) event on Thursday in Dubai.

The market, which lasts till January 24 at South Ridge Park in Downtown Dubai, also includes dining and free entertainment options.

Bright red, yellow and blue refurbished containers — some stacked on top of each other — now dot the small community park in the upmarket neighbourhood, not far from Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower.

On offer are mostly local jewellery, fashion, accessories and other brands, mainly started by young entrepreneurs. ‘Pop up’ retailing, where smaller brands only set up shop during community events is catching on in Dubai — and OTB is making a name for itself in the trend.

This is the second year in a row that OTB has popped up during the annual DSF, which ends February 1 this year. In the 2014 debut edition, OTB was held at Burj Park.

Shopping outdoors in the cool weather in a casual, carnivallike atmosphere is a treat in Dubai, where the hot climate means most people prefer indoor air-conditioned malls that are teeming with better-known international brands.

On Thursday evening, people navigated between the containers, placed in no particular order, scattered about the park. More than 55 retailers are participating, and some businesses are also operating out of wooden hutlike stands.

There are handmade embroidery laptop bags, T-shirts where buyers can print their own designs, mini-pancakes the size of a wristwatch dial, and many other products and eateries.

The market is loosely divided into four areas: arts and crafts, family activity area, cinema, and food court. There are also rides and games for children, with some that even grown-ups can enjoy.

A main theme of the OTB is sustainability — in environment and business. There is a cubic structure made from recycled bottles that will be hosting panel discussions on the topic by industry experts. The idea of using refurbished containers as storefronts also fits into the theme. Young business persons at the event said using refurbished or temporary materials also means they can do without buying or renting permanent shops in the city.

“Through market OTB, other DSF events, and Dubai initiatives, we are also providing young and new entrepreneurs a platform to showcase their products and talents. Our focus is the youth,” Laila Suhail, CEO of Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (which organises DSF) told Gulf News during a tour of the market on Thursday.

She added there are a growing number of brands operating as pop ups in Dubai during its varied seasonal and annual events. Some retailers from last OTB have returned this year. Shoppers too will find affordable wares that are not readily available elsewhere, Laila said.

Sidrah Zahid, a young businesswoman at OTB, said: “Being not so easily available can be a good thing. It keeps the excitement going and brings a sort of exotic dimension to your brand. We operate as a pop up, though we have some online sales too.”

Zahid runs Aina, a lifestyle and fashion brand of embroidery bags, pillows, covers and similar fabrics with two partners, including Esha Amin.

More details on OTB and other DSF events can be found on mydsf.ae