Dubai is the world's second-biggest retail destination - for the second year running, according to a report by the international property specialist CBRE.
The emirate followed closely behind London, which retained the top spot after taking Dubai's crown last year.
But Dubai topped the United Kingdom's capital in one respect, becoming the highest-ranked established target market for new retailers.
"We looked at the presence of international retailers, and by our definition international means those retailers who are [operating] in a country outside their country of origin," said Nick Maclean, the managing director of CBRE Middle East.
"Dubai and London have just under 55 per cent of all international brands represented in those two cities."
This year, both cities attracted more brands, but the gap widened between them, Paris, Moscow and New York, which make up the rest of the top five.
There were 25 new retailer entries to Dubai during 2012, including the American retailers Franklin & Marshall and The Cheesecake Factory.
"Historically you have had a lot of European brands which have made their way to Dubai. American brands were - and there are exceptions to this - less developed," said Richard Adams, the director and senior consultant at Acuity Middle East.
Brands from the United States have traditionally been less willing to give up control over local operations - and franchises and partnerships tend to dominate here. But the financial crisis changed the outlook of many brands.
"A lot of these brands were forced to change their attitudes. In order to keep top-line revenue growth there was this worldwide expansion and because Dubai is an attractive market [they chose here]," added Mr Adams.
Abu Dhabi did not make the top 20. But it did finish fourth on the list of new locations for luxury brands, and it is also within the world's top 10 markets for the future development of retail space.
"What we expect is in 2015 or 2016, Abu Dhabi is likely to make an entry into those top 20 lists, but not at the moment," said Mr Maclean.
The survey, which is in its sixth year, maps the global footprint of 320 retailers across more than 200 cities.