13 November, 2006

Dubai, the Retail Mecca

As anyone who lives in the UAE knows, Dubai is well on its way to becoming a retail and shopping mecca. As MENA Report noted last month:
By 2009, Dubai is expected to have the highest retail spend in the GCC, higher than Saudi Arabia and despite having a population one-twentieth the size. Most of this spend will be generated from the expected 15 million tourists. ... At the helm of its long list of projects that incorporate malls of various sizes, shapes and themes is the Dubai Mall, which will be constructed close to the Burj Dubai Tower, and will be the largest mall in the world. The mall is being pegged to be larger than the gigantic West Edmonton Mall in Canada and the Mall of America in Minneapolis, USA.
Fifteen million tourists may seem like a lot of people until you realize that there is both a great deal of wealth and great number of people within a two-hour flight of here, particularly in oil rich central and southwest Asia:
Dubai has been targeting a market of 1.5 billion people with a GDP of US$1.1 trillion from the Middle East, South Asia and the entire Caspian region. "While for 300 million people in the US, there are a number of hubs, for 300 million people in the Middle East, there is only one hub ~ Dubai," he said. "Moreover, Dubai caters to over 1.5 billion people who are less than two hours flying time away. So, as a hub, as we gear up to serve a wider number of consumers in and beyond the region, we will need more malls."... Analysing some of its surveys, Retail International's principal Simon Thomson says: "Dubai is on course to become possibly the most densely shopped city on the planet.
The numbers sound so good that it is easy to understand why reports like this one from AME-Info are now so commonplace:
Dunhill, the maker of luxury goods for men, is opening two new boutiques in the UAE before the end of March 2007, and will then expand into other GCC countries, the company said. It has four stores in the UAE at present.
On the other hand, if everything is so rosy, why in the same week would we see news articles like this about Harrod's, the upscale British retailer owned by Saudi financier Mohammad al-Fayed:

read the rest here


Woke said...

Harrods reckons that Dubai is an immature market and the consumers here are not ready for the multi-brand department store format.

Anonymous said...

Dubai is doing quite well as far as i am concerned in retail segment. Anyways, nice article. you can read a nice retail industry research blog at

http://www.rncos.com/Blog/retail.html which i found i quite interesting.

fellow atheist said...

I am disppointed that we don't have retailers like Ross - Dress for Less. That was one of my favorites. I am not even going near the Lacoste stores, let alone the designer names.

Is everyone shopping for designer clothes these days? Harrod's is wrong. The market is mature enough, and he stands to make a lot of money by coming in here (not that they are anything like Ross).

I think they are missing out on an opportunity as a result of over-conservatism. Back before the construction boom happened in Dubai, companies would go to banks in Bahrain to ask for loans to invest in hotels in Dubai. I know from one of the bankers in one of the larger regional banks that they used to laugh at them. "There couldn't possibly be that many people planning to come to Dubai. Sorry." In retrospect, they could have made a lot of money as all those projects succeeded (and well overperformed).

I think Harrod's people are the same breed. It's not like he will lose money, but he might find that he will have to come in a little too late.

Starling David Hunter said...


thanks so much for that link. I agree with "fellow atheist" that Harrod's is misunderestimating the market here. And even if not, they could undertake to educate the market, as the saying goes, about their unique offerings. I stand by my assessment that they are going to show up to the party and, as FA puts it, unfashionably late.

Again, Woke, I thank you.


secretdubai said...

I dunno. I've been in Harvey Nicks a few times, and it's always something of a graveyard.

Anonymous said...

Harvey Nicks is a graveyard, as are all of the big multi-brand dept stores.

And look at it. Harvey Nicks watered down its brand (in terms of ignoring the cutting edge which is known for in the UK and concentrating on the sterotypical designer crap so beloved by Dubai's lemmings) so much to come to Dubai and still its too much for people.

To be honest - apart from City Centre, Mercato and MoE - which malls actually have a decent customer flow?

Mme Cyn said...

I remember the great anticipation we Americans felt when Bur Juman announced that Saks 5th Avenue was coming to town. My god! I would finally be able to buy good quality clothes that actually fit and weren't some 'Designer/Fashion victim' Size 0 offerings from the boutiques or the chintzy, no shoulders/big hips offerings from the local British department stores. Huzzah! And then this so-called Saks arrived. What a huge disappointment. If Harrod's showed up, it would be more of the same, I'm sure. Shopping in this so-called shopping mecca sux.

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