DSF: The face of Dubai's retail industry

Retail industry is as big as the financial or real estate sector in terms of value

When it started in 1996, there were only a handful of malls participating. But, today, more than 70 malls have joined hands to celebrate Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) 2014.

The total shopping spent during the festival rose to Dh14.7billion in 2012, nearly six times of what the spent was in the first year of it's launch.


Sale at Mercato Mall. {Pix by Ahmad Ardity]


The first mega event after Dubai won the right to host Expo 2020 has already set the cash registers ringing for retailers with visitors spending over Dh400 million in the first two weeks of DSF 2014.

DSF stands as the proof of Dubai’s retail dominance in the region, attracting millions of visitors from all over the world.

On the economic front, Dubai Economic Council says retail is one of the most important sectors in Dubai’s economy and accounts for around 13 per cent of total gross domestic product and in terms of value, it is about the same size of the financial sector, the real estate, and the construction sector.

And that’s not all. Dubai has retained its position as the second most important international retail destination globally, with London continuing to hold the top position, CBRE’s 2013 edition of “How Global is the Business of Retail?” revealed.

With the Middle East being the fastest growing location for American retail and food and beverage brands, the global consultancy stated Dubai was almost invariably to be the entry point for retailers into the region due to its infrastructure and particularly, aviation, investment over many years.

Real boost to retail

In its report, Dubai FDI said that the hugely popular annual DSF and Dubai Summer Surprises (DSS) continue to provide a real boost to Dubai’s retail and tourism sectors.

Shoppers busy at Deira City Centre in Dubai [Pix by Ashok Verma]

“The annual events attract millions of visitors from around the Gulf Cooperation Council and wider Middle East, drawn to large discount sales in the vast majority of retail outlets, from high-end to value stores. Shopping malls in particular boost their revenue dramatically during DSS and DSF, also increasing food and beverage sales and hotel occupancy,” the government entity said.

Dubai Metro, which has seen ever increasing numbers of passengers since its launch in 2009 has also had a highly positive impact on retail footfall. Many metro stations are located either inside or adjacent to major shopping malls, some of which have built retail extensions to expand through to the metro exits, it added.

Business Monitor International (BMI), a market leader in business intelligence, estimates that the UAE retail sales of Dh114bn in 2011, will grow 32.9 per cent to Dh151bn by 2015.

But all those estimates were post Dubai’s Expo 2020 win. Now, the Expo will change the number drastically as over 25 million people are expected to visit the Expo with DSF also celebrating its "Silver Jubilee".

Shoppers paradise

Radha Kumar, an Indian, has visited Dubai twice during the DSF. “We have got so many festivals, but nothing like DSF. There is no shopping festival in India. The event is so well planned... I come here for shopping and do a lot. My kids don’t get bored as they have got a lot of entertainment stuff to do in the malls… in fact, I love to shop in Dubai.”


Shoppers busy at Deira City Centre in Dubai [Pix by Ashok Verma]

She is amazed with the way the festival is organised. “It’s like an enterprise… well managed and well planned. They have a goal in their mind and they work to meet it.”

Andrew Burrow, who works as a marketing manager with in the UK, says: “It’s simply awesome… the professionalism shown to run the event is amazing. Holding such a large scale event every year isn’t easy though the flowchart is ready one has to work on various concepts to make the festival memorable every year.”

Borrow says that he knows of lot of Britons who come to Dubai during the festival.

“Not only is Dubai a shoppers paradise and the weather is perfect for us to enjoy a good vacation. I don’t mind if my family spends on shopping… its fine as they get good bargains.”

Growing sales

In fact, the retail dominance came to fore when the organiser’s of DSF, the Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE), an agency of the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), revealed that under the “Shop and Win” promotion sales of Dh400 million were generated in mere 14 days.

Helal Saeed Almarri, Director-General, DTCM, said: “The positive economic indicators that have emerged from the first two weeks of this year’s Dubai Shopping Festival augur well for the remaining period of the festival and are both a demonstration of the contribution retail makes to the Dubai economy and evidence of Dubai’s stature as a shopping destination.

“These results also endorse the strategy of the Dubai Government to leverage the retail and events sectors as key drivers of tourism growth, with Dubai Shopping Festival providing a range of unique shopping experiences which enhance the Emirate’s destination offering.”

Dubai Gold and Jewellery Group disclosed its outlets participating in the Gold Raffle have recorded 35 to 40 per cent sales at the midway stage of DSF.

“Dubai Shopping Festival is always a great success for us, and this year we are pleased to embrace the ‘Shop at Your Best’ theme by offering shoppers even more exciting promotions and family entertainment,” said Fuad Mansoor Sharaf, Senior Director – Property Management, Shopping Malls for Majid Al Futtaim Properties.

“Across our shopping malls (Deira City Centre, Mall of the Emirates and Mirdif City Centre) we have witnessed a double-digit increase in footfall during the first half of DSF, demonstrating the tremendous value the festival adds to Dubai’s economic and tourism aims,” he added.

DSF 2014 will continue until February 2 under the theme “Shop at Your Best” aimed at offering unique shopping experiences through over 150 events and activities that are being held across the city.

The growth chart 

1996: The inaugural DSF attracted 1.6 million visitors with a total spend of Dh2.15 billion. 121 Lexus GS300 cars and 43 kg of gold were raffled away as prizes.

2000: The theme “One World. One Family. One Festival” was introduced and saw an increase in European visitors and a record 2.55 million visitors. Total overall spending saw a five per cent rise. 

2003: New concepts were introduced such as the Night Souq, Desert Camp and Dubai Fashion 2003. The Global Village attracted 3.1 million visitors. Overall spend increased by 11.3 per cent, to Dh5.12 billion and visitor numbers rose by 8.95 per cent to 2.92 million. 32 kgs of gold and Dh1 million were raffled away as prizes.

2006-2007: A combined 11th and 12th edition was held over a 45-day period. It attracted 3.5 million visitors   and generated a total spend of Dh10.2 billion. The Lexus Mega Raffle, Nissan Raffle and Gold Daily Raffle and huge cash prizes were key attractions. Cirque du Soleil made its debut in the Middle East.          

2012: More than 70 participating malls and 6,000 retail outlets offered promotions. The festival attracted 4.3 million visitors,  who spent Dh14.7 billion.

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