The electronics retailer Sharaf DG plans to open about seven stores in the next year, including its first outlets in Abu Dhabi, Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah and Qatar.
Yasser Sharaf, the managing director of the retailer that is based in Dubai, said it was this year shifting its focus from the emirate, where it has 15 stores, to the growing market in Abu Dhabi.
Next year, it will expand in the Northern Emirates where there are fewer retail options available, Mr Sharaf said. "These are new markets for us so I don't think we will go as big as we are here," he said. "But we should have our fingerprint there."
The company is also planning its first outlet in Qatar and is to open a second store in Bahrain. Sharaf DG's expansion comes after a tough time for the country's electronics retailers. As consumers became more wary of spending because of the financial crisis, electronics makers and retailers cut their prices.
In turn, the number of consumer electronics goods bought last year rose 1.5 per cent but the overall sales value dropped. Data from the consultancy GfK Retail and Technology's Temax report showed shoppers in the UAE last year spent Dh2.19 billion (US$596.2 million) on consumer electronics such as TVs and DVD players, 33.8 per cent less than in 2008. But there are signs of recovery. In the first half of this year, sales of consumer electronics reached Dh1.27bn, up 15.3 per cent from the same period last year.
Mr Sharaf said his company's electronics sales were up by between 10 and 15 per cent so far this year and he expected to end the year with 20 per cent growth. "Hopefully, there will be an improvement," he said. "We see it, we started seeing it already from Ramadan until now." Sharaf DG had planned to enter Saudi Arabia by this year but will hold off until it has the right infrastructure in place, said Mr Sharaf.
"To go to a market as big as Saudi Arabia, we want to make sure 100 per cent that we are ready."
Sharaf DG also expanded its network by launching an online retail portal about six months ago, selling about 10,000 items. The site now gets 6,000 hits and between 100 and 150 transactions daily.
Many of the online customers are from Abu Dhabi, including those from more remote corners such as Ruwais where residents have limited shopping options.
Mr Sharaf said the company was expanding because the electronics retail industry depended on high volumes due to the typically low margins. "For me, online is like another shopping mall. It's another outlet for me," Mr Sharaf said. "The more outlets I have, the better. But for us to go online, we had to be ready internally. That is why it took time."
Sharaf DG started testing its online retail website nine months ago. It has also registered a presence with Souq.com. The company is one of many recent entrants to the UAE's booming e-commerce scene.