Dubai has launched the region's first virtual mall.
Tejuri.com, which is endorsed by Dubai's Department of Economic Development, features more than 40 retailers representing more than 150 brands. Web stores include Sharaf DG, Grand Optics and Reebok. "The site hosts well-known local and multinational retailers across various departments akin to a shopping mall, but in the online space," said Ayaz Maqbool,the managing director of Tejuri.com.
Retail accounted for almost 12 per cent of Dubai's GDP over the past decade, according to figures from the department.
"Tejuri.com is a natural extension of Dubai's world-class retail industry. People flock to our malls as we offer a large selection of products in a variety of brands and Tejuri allows consumers to tap into the same products and services, with the click of a button," said Mr Maqbool.
The initiative was built with the support of the economic department to bring stores online and to help retailers reach a growing audience, he added.
The online shopping industry in the Emirates was valued at US$281.6 million (Dh1.03 billion) last year by Euromonitor, compared with $47.8bn in the United Kingdom and $11.1bn in Brazil.
Internet retailing benefited from a sharp rise in the household penetration of broadband enabled computers in the UAE during 2006-2011. Rates rose from 23 per cent in 2005 to 73 per cent in 2010, with further growth in 2011.
"Online shopping in the Middle East is rapidly evolving and with one of the highest global per capita internet penetration levels and a dynamic young population, the online spending potential is quickly emerging as one of the highest in the world," said Mr Maqbool.
The concept aims to complement the shopping mall experience and open up opportunities for small and medium-sized retailers looking to break into the industry, he added.
The model gives retailers the chance to get online within two to four weeks with "minimal capital investment and effort", said Mr Maqbool.
"The complete e-commerce infrastructure, payment gateway, customer services, IT hosting and website development are already taken care of by Tejuri, hence, makes it extremely easy and economical for the retailers to go online.
"Combined with an eagerness to spend and a desire from regional consumers to embrace newness, now is the perfect time to realise the potential of the Middle East shopper," he added.