DUBAI // Crowds of bargain-hungry shoppers flocked to the annual SAVEX discount shopping expo in Dubai yesterday eager to indulge in a bit of luxury for less. Raishah Loftus a 35-year-old Dubai housewife, drove across the city to shop at the exhibition and walked away with two designer swimsuits, a blender and a grilling machine, all for just over Dh300 (US$80).
"I think it's worth the travel just to buy something cheaper," Ms Loftus said. "At this time, when with the credit crunch everyone is trying not to spend so much, sales like this are good." So many wallet-watching shoppers are expected at SAVEX this year that organisers have more than doubled the size of the expo and are expecting to reap more than Dh30 million in sales in two sessions, compared with just Dh13m last year.
SAVEX has expanded from 2,500 square metres of shopping last year to 6,000 sq metres this year, said Ramesh Chuggani, the expo's main organiser. The growth stems from UAE retailers looking to keep the newest stock on hand to attract more customers, and increasingly budget-conscious shoppers. "The downturn definitely has had an impact," Mr Chuggani said. "What you would have perhaps bought for $100, you want more value for that $100 today."
Retailers in the UAE felt the pinch last year when the economic downturn reached the region. After rounds of layoffs in property and finance, shoppers put off purchases of discretionary items such as jewellery and handbags, due to economic uncertainty. Although sales received a boost at the end of the year, during the Eid al Adha and Christmas holidays, consumers have remained thrifty. From Montblanc to Roberto Cavalli to Jashanmal, 52 retailers are offering their wares for as much as 90 per cent off to cater to this growing segment, up from 44 last year. Mr Chuggani expects shoppers to make 30,000 transactions, up from 23,000 last year. He also anticipates more retailers signing on for a the second instalment of SAVEX in late April. The first instalment ends this Sunday.
Ram Udupi, the division manager of home appliances for Jashanmal, said that while the company was no longer facing an overflow of merchandise as it was when the economic downturn hit, the company was trying to keep its offerings as new as possible to attract increasingly finicky customers. "It makes more sense now to have the latest products in the global market," he said. Mr Chuggani said retailers now needed to shift their approach to stay competitive.
"They don't want to keep [merchandise] in the system for too long; they want to keep offering something fresh," he said. "The customer is wanting something fresh all the time now. The competition has increased and [retailers] have to become more agile." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org