DSF visitors spend Dh2,590 per person; total spend crosses Dh145bn

DSF was first launched in 1996 and was created 20 years ago to promote Dubai globally as the “ultimate leading tourist and shopping destination globally. (Supplied)

Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF), which celebrates 20 years of success this year, has set the cash registers ringing for retailers, once again.

Retailers have confirmed that in the early days of DSF 2015 sales are above the numbers achieved in the early days of DSF 2014, David Macadam, Chief Executive Officer of the Middle East Council of Shopping Centres, a trade body representing the shopping centre industry in the Middle East & North Africa, told ‘Emirates24|7’ in an interview.


The optimism of retailers can be seen with the way they have unleashed their marketing campaigns, offering discounts on electronics, cars, haute couture fashion brands, gold, et al. The overall economic impact of DSF is far greater, not merely for the retail industry, but for ancillary businesses such as money exchanges, kiosks in shopping malls, antic sellers, who have reported increase in business.

DSF, which is “the longest running and the largest shopping festival in the world,” has attracted 56 million visitors to the emirate in the last two decades, resulting in total spend of over Dh145 billion.

“Inviting tourists to visit Dubai for shopping creates many opportunities for the economic growth. Annually the retailers succeed in greater sales. Hotel and restaurants also benefit because the visitors stay in the emirate for an average of 3.6 days during their shopping vacation. The aviation sector also benefits with higher passenger loads arriving into the emirate,” says Macadam.


DSF was first launched in 1996 and was created 20 years ago to promote Dubai globally as the “ultimate leading tourist and shopping destination globally.” Though shopping has always been an integral part of the festival, many prizes are given away including raffles of luxury cars, cash and gold that form part of the month-long celebration, focusing primarily on families.

Solid infrastructure

The world-class infrastructure in the emirate enables the DSF to be the great success annually, adds Macadam. The Dubai Metro is already linked to major shopping malls, but now the Dubai Tram makes it easy for tourists to visit other destinations such as the Walk on Jumeirah Beach Residence and Dubai Marina.

In 1996, the DSF had attracted 1.6 million visitors over the month-long event with visitors spend being Dh2.15 billion. But in 2015, the Dubai Airport handled 650,000 passengers between January 2 and January 4, setting a new record for the initial days of the DSF.

The Dubai Airport, which is only one element of the infrastructure within the emirate, has enabled the increase in tourism.  Also supporting the festival are the many infrastructure strengths including the large fleet of taxis, great road networks, hotels, safety and security, plenty of power and water in the grid, easy entry visa requirements.



An international brand

“DSF is now a brand in itself, recognised by people from across the Middle East region and international visitors beyond. The emirate has become synonymous with luxury retail, attracting a host of new and exciting retail brands in recent years. It is now second only to London in terms of international brand exposure and that makes it a hugely attractive destination for consumers, Matthew Green, the head of research and consultancy at CBRE, told ‘Emirates24|7’.

So what factors have driven and will drive DSF?

“In addition to the strong infrastructure in Dubai, the leadership, wisdom and guidance of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has enabled the retail industry to grow and prosper, contributing now 28 per cent towards the GDP of the UAE economy,” says Macadam.



Talking about the public-private partnership (PPP) approach adopted by DSF, he mentions the PPP model has existed among all stakeholders since the festival’s inception.

“The private sector, through active investment and participation has been the driving force behind the success of the event. Investors include many corporate investors, the retailers, shopping centre owners and the government, which has provided the massive investment in the Dubai infrastructure. Even Laila Mohammad Suhail, CEO of Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment, has been reinforcing the link between the private-public partnerships since the beginning of the festival.”

Aiding retail growth

Mohammed Abdul Rahim Al Fahim, Chief Executive Officer, Paris Gallery Group of Companies, firmly believes the DSF has become a major part of every business plan and strategy in the UAE.

“It surely is a great way for businesses to kick-start a new year. Retail starts on the right note, so to speak. And at the end of each year, we are looking at the beginning of the next with anticipation. Two decades ago, there were less than 10 million visitors, and this year we are expecting 70 million. The number of hotels grew 150 percent since 1997, and the number of hotel rooms are about 85000 strong now, a 300 per cent increase.”

Nadeem Khanzadah, Head OmniChannel Retail, Jumbo Group, adds DSF is an important part of the retail calendar in the UAE.

“In effect, the DSF season performance becomes an integral part of our estimations for annual sales targets. A number of our vendor partners also expect higher product movement during this season, making it important for us to up our game with each new edition of the event. The festival has never failed to deliver in the past, and we expect the same this year as well.”

The 2015 DSF, under the theme “20th Anniversary – A Journey of Celebrations,” will continue until 1 February.

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