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Why Dubai is a much sought-after retail hub for global brands

Dubai Shopping Festival

Home to the world’s biggest mall, traditional souks, and the highest number of food and beverage outlets per capita in the world, Dubai is a shopper’s paradise. Rated as the second most important retail opportunity after London, Dubai has local iconic malls which are constantly reinventing on their search for new brands and experiences to attract global consumers to spend on fly-and-buy excursions. Added to this is the growing young local population which is ready to splurge on fashion, adding to the retail buzz. In reality, while most other retail markets are finding it difficult to retain shoppers, Dubai is emerging as a shopper’s paradise!

As the buzz around Dubai’s retail sector increases, the city is expected to see an additional 9,00,000 sq. metre of space getting delivered to retail over the next couple of years through old area expansion or newer shopping area establishments. Footfall and occupancy rates in prime retail space in Dubai have showed no sign of weakening. The nation continues to maintain a healthy retail occupancy rate, indicating continued demand for units in prime malls. Rents are expected to remain under pressure over the next 12 months owing to the large volume of potential new supply yet to enter the market.

In the UAE as a whole, the retail landscape is expected to grow at a rate of 3 per cent in 2018, reaching a value of DH 196 billion, which indicates a slight improvement over the predictions made earlier. Significantly, the retail and wholesale sector is the biggest single contributor to its economy. The relationship between retail, real estate, air transport and tourism, is key to the emirate’s value proposition for consumers and investors. Analysts have predicted the e-commerce growth here to gain further momentum in 2018, for garnering a larger share of retail money the consumers spend.

Looking at the demographic shift, through the new visiting policy implementation, wherein Russian citizens are granted 30-day visit visa, and Chinese visitors’ percentage has increased to 46%, there is obviously going to be a positive reflection on tourism growth and future business prospects. According to industry watchers, good flight connections, competitive hotel room rates, security, and now, the visa on arrival are all driving the growth of Chinese tourists to Dubai.

Dubai Shopping Festival

The city boasts of being the Middle East’s shopping hub and houses more than 70 shopping malls, including the Dubai Mall which is the world’s biggest shopping complex by total area. The Annual Dubai shopping festival has become a major tourist attraction. According to Mastercard, tourists splurged US $ 28.5 billion last year in Dubai. It predicts that the figure is expected to go up by 10 per cent this year.
On the fashion industry front, Dubai continues to advance with places like d3, Dubai Design District, dedicated to the design community including start-ups, entrepreneurs and established international designs. Luxury and fashion brands and initiatives such as Dubai Design & Fashion Council have helped elevate local and regional talent. The fashion industry here is in a positive growth phase. This has added to the awareness of fashion and the concept of designer wear.


• Renowned malls with high footfall continue to maintain healthy occupancy, indicating continued demand by retailers for units in prime locations. However, the delivery of additional retail supply is expected to put pressure on overall occupancy rates.

• Performance of smaller section neighbourhood centres remains flat. These centres cater to the local resident population and are able to ensure continuous revenue streams.

• Dubai’s retail sector is expected to see an additional 9,00,000 sq. metre of space getting delivered over the next couple of years. This comes as developers use retail as an anchor for their mixed-use developments.

• E-commerce sales are expected to account for US $ 1.5 billion of the Gulf’s high-end luxury segment within the next four years. Considering that the higher number of population is under 30, internet penetration and Governments are actively focusing on investing in technologies and entrepreneurship. Its online retail industry is expected to soar by 2021.

A few years back, Arab consumers spent US $ 320 billion on luxury fashion. The number is expected to rise to US $ 490 billion by 2019. The UAE and its fresh, growing market promotes local homegrown talent. Fashion Forward (FFWD) has become a great platform with local designers – for both small and large businesses. Many international buyers attend FFWD with the hope of getting more awareness on local brands. Arab Fashion Week is another such forum that was created two years back, which focuses on showcasing international talent. This five-day event brings together designers from Europe and beyond. Many fresh faces among local designers who are showcasing their work in the fashion industry include names like Rami Al Ali, Nadine Kanso of Bil Arabi and Maryam Hassani, 55FIFTY7 Founder.

Online forums like – providing high street fashion for men, women, kids, plus exclusive brands – are said to be UAE’s answer to ASOS. The rise of digital has also put a brighter spotlight on local talent. “For too long, consumers who want to buy fashion online in the Middle East have suffered from a lack of variety. Fashion will be at the very heart of the Noon experience,” states Mohammad Alabbar, Founder of, a promising online retail market.

To attain that perfect sync where fashion meets retail and to ensure permanence amid uncertainty, both mall operators and retailers are diversifying their product offerings through introduction of new technologies as a means of reaching out to customers. E-commerce rises to be on the forefront of this evolution. Seamless Retail Middle East is the most prominent event for the rapidly evolving world of retail technology and shopper experience. It brings forth new ideas, exciting innovations and cutting-edge technology to enable retailers to adapt, grow and thrive in this new world of connected commerce. As the gateway to one of the most exciting retail markets in the world, this event makes space for 350 exhibitors, and draws in a crowd of over 10,000 attendees from across the Middle East, North Africa, Asia and Central Europe.

There is no doubt that the malls in Dubai are remarkable interms of their architecture, their special attractions and the range of top brands present, but the city also offers a range of less familiar stores that add extra depth to the Dubai shopping experience. In 2018, the city will see the launch of new retail format offerings integrating ‘lifestyle experience’ in its retail space, and social activities to bring the community together and promote social responsibility culture.