Retail sales during last year's Dubai Shopping Festival fell 2 per cent from the previous year despite the addition of new malls and roughly 2,000 participating shops. Visitors to the 32-day festival spent Dh9.8 billion (US$2.66bn) compared with Dh10bn in 2008.The number of festival-goers rose 4.6 per cent to 3.35 million, the Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment (DEPE) said in data released ahead of this year's event.
"Despite a decrease in spending figures, the decline is minimal," said Laila Suhail, the DEPE chief executive. The 2009 festival, held between January 15 and February 15, launched as the global economic downturn began to hit the UAE and consumers held back from spending. Anticipating this, festival organisers introduced bigger discounts, cheaper hotel packages and targeted visitors from nearby GCC countries and Asia, rather than Europe.
It seems to have worked, as the number of tourists in the first quarter of 2009 rose five per cent to 1.99 million, according to DTCM data. Budget-friendly goods and hotel packages helped lure more visitors to the UAE, but cheaper price tags also resulted in a drop in overall spending figures, organisers said. The addition of new shopping centres such as Dubai Mall, which opened in November 2008 with roughly 600 shops, also likely had a positive influence on the figure, said Laurent-Patrick Gally, a retail analyst with Shuaa Capital in Dubai (CK). There were 6,000 participating retailers in 2009 compared with 4,000 in 2008.
Amit Dhamani, the chief executive of Dhamani Jewellers (CK), said his stores had similar sales to the 2008 festival. "We had a good customer base from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain," he said. "They helped keep sales afloat." He was hopeful that the next festival, between January 28 and February 28 2010, would fare better due to improved consumer sentiment. Vipen Sethi, the chief executive of the Landmark Group which has brands including Splash (CK), said its DSF sales stayed on par with 2008, but less people were out shopping. He was sceptical that the next festival would bring robust sales to the emirate.
But Mr Gally disagreed, as Dubai is in a better economic position now. "The consumer mood and confidence is probably up compared to what it was in January 2009," he said. "I would expect that this kind of indication to translate into higher spending during this edition of the festival." * with additional reporting from Rebecca Bundhun @Email:email@example.com