Shoppers across the UAE are paying as much as 25 per cent more for major fashion brands than elsewhere in the world.
Despite lower rents, no added taxes and negligible customs duties in the UAE, the country is more expensive for brands such as H&M and Zara than in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy and the United States.
Only the fashion chain Mango was consistently cheaper in the UAE than elsewhere, according to an analysis by The National and Caxton FX, a currency exchange based in London.
Shoppers said brands could charge more because consumer spending was notoriously higher in the Gulf than other parts of the world. "I'm always shocked at how expensive clothes are," said Lindsay Johnston, an avid shopper and Dubai resident.
"[Retailers] think they can charge more," she added. "Everything is more expensive. The majority of stuff I buy now is online."
A look at more than 20 items at Zara, H&M and Mango found that prices were as much as 25 per cent higher in the UAE than other countries.
A Zara shirt in the UAE costs Dh195, but in the UK it is selling for Dh174, at current exchange rates. A men's jacket from Zara is 25 per cent cheaper in France, where it costs Dh112 - compared with Dh150 in the UAE.
At H&M, a children's blouse is 25 per cent cheaper in the US, and 24 per cent cheaper in Italy than in the Emirates.
"It's not just a notion. If you compare clothing brands here and in Europe for instance, there is quite a change," said Mo Heathcote, a shopper in Dubai.
All the major fashion brands in the UAE work under a franchise structure or joint venture with a local partner.
H&M is operated by Alshaya, who declined to comment. Azadea operates Mango and also declined to comment.
Zara's pricing structure throughout the world is determined by head office in Spain. It said a number of different factors determined prices in each country.
"We can clarify that Zara's commercial positioning is exactly the same in all markets: offering our customers quality products with latest fashion trends at affordable prices," a spokesperson for Zara said. "We fix prices in each markets taking into consideration different factors, local costs structure, operative costs, local fashion sector prices, but always keeping attractive prices for our customers."
Stay tuned to The National for a full report.
iPad users can follow our twitterfeed via Flipboard - just search for Ind_Insights on the app.