Day in the Life of: Dubai Dragon Market shopper

The 150,000-square-metre Dragon Mart on Hatta-Oman highway is the largest retail trade centre for Chinese products outside mainland China.(Nadim Kawach)

Sadeq Khan opened the door of the massive bicycle shop at Dubai’s Dragon Mart and let in a large number of waiting customers.

It was Friday and the worker at the Chinese shop braced himself for a busy sales day and for long hours of tough argument about the price.

Khan is the chief worker who is aided by at least five other workers at the shop, which is owned by a Chinese woman sitting at a large table and checking bills at her computer.

Khan does all the bargaining with the customers as the other workers are restricted to show the items to the customers and provide instant repair and other services.

“All customers without exception argue about the price and I expect this of course. This market is a place for bargaining and even the Western customers who are not used to bargaining, have become tough bargainers,” Khan said.

“But the act of bargaining is not the main problem. It’s the price cut they want. Many of them want a discount of more than 50 per cent but we can’t do this.”

The shop where Khan works deal in bicycles with prices ranging from Dh100 to Dh2,000 as they include small machines for children and large power-run bicycles.

“We can cut the price by a reasonable level but not by more than 50 per cent.

“I remember one customer from Oman wanted to buy a bicycle and I told him its Dh950. He said he would pay Dh400, but of course I refused.”

In other shops at the massive market, however, hefty price cuts are possible.

A Chinese mobile phone which is offered by the dealer for Dh150 could be bought for Dh100 or even less.

A speaker that was on sale for Dh90 was sold or Dh50.

Both the dealers and the customers at this dragon-shaped market realise that bargaining is inevitable and both brace for it.

Whether the price cut is small or large, the customer leaves happy in most cases and while the dealer still makes profit.

“We know that customers who come here will argue about the price no matter what price you mention to them. So we are prepared for this and it all depends on how tough is this or that customer.

“We have a big room to maneuver but there are always limits. We simply cannot accept to lose or make a tiny profit,” said a Chinese shop dealer, identifying himself as only Choo.

“Though my long stay here, I have come across different types of customers. For example those from the West argue politely by saying for example ‘how about little bit discount’. Arabs and Asian are generally a bit tough and rough as they say for example ‘I am not buying this item for this price… you must cut it.

“Others would lie by saying ‘why are you so expensive. The other shop offered us very low price.”

The 150,000-square-metre Dragon Mart on Hatta-Oman highway is the largest retail trade centre for Chinese products outside mainland China.

At least 50,000 people visit the market every day, generating a turnover of Dh200-500 million.

Phase 2 of the market, with a cost of around Dh990 million, has been completed and is set to be inaugurated within a few months.

The new market has an area of 175,000 square metres and it adjoins the existing market, which has nearly 4,000 shops.

“Dragon Mart has gone from strength to strength since it opened in 2004. Now, we are doubling the size of this amazing success story – proof of our commitment to continued delivery of new and existing projects, and of the huge demand from business wanting to be a part of the Dragon Mart phenomenon,” Ali Rashid Lootah, Nakheel chairman, said while visiting Dragon Mart recently.

The new mall building will also have a further 1,750 car-parking spaces on the roof with 800 spaces at ground level, bringing the existing vehicle capacity up to a total of 7,050.

More than 80 per cent of the new mall has already been let.

Dragon Mart covers a massive variety of products, including toys, watches, mobile phones, electronics and electrical appliances, bicycles, machinery, stationery, home appliances, kitchen tools, medical products and spare parts.

Visitors to the market, which also include many restaurants and cafes, come from all UAE emirates as well as Oman, which is closer to the mall than some emirates are.

The mall attracts a large variety of nationalities including Emiratis, other Arabs, Asians, Westerners, Russians and East Europeans.

“This is the first time I come here and I found that it is the most amazing and exciting shopping mall I have ever visited,” said Mutaz Al Dirawi, a 30-year-old Syrian.

“I was told about it by friends. I found that products are very cheap and you could even bring prices further down.

“I have just bought this vine leaves roller for Dh20 and I swear I saw it in an Abu Dhabi shop for Dh70.”


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