Consumers looking for a better deal on their mobiles have reduced sales at Abu Dhabi's famed phone strip on Defence Road by as much as 25 per cent within the past year. More than 70 shops along the road, which has long been the centre of the capital's electronic retail market, fill the block between Muroor Road and Ninth Street.
But gone are the days when shoppers had to dodge parked cars and navigate through crowds as they searched for the latest BlackBerry or Nokia handsets. Those crowds would be a welcome sight today, retailers say. "In the beginning of 2009 I would have sales of more than Dh20,000 (US$5,445) every day. Now, I can sell only about Dh15,000," says Fadi Ahmad, the manager of City Phones. Shopkeepers have estimated that sales have fallen about 50 per cent and the crowds have thinned out.
Mohammed Qasim, the manager of Master Mobile Phone, says: "A year ago we would have up to 200 people coming into our store, but now the most we can get is about 100, and fewer than 50 would actually buy something." An informal survey of about two dozen stores in the Defence Road market indicates the drop in sales follows a shift in consumer attitudes, where shoppers now evaluate the cost and brand of a mobile phone before making a purchase. In the past, it was not uncommon for consumers to buy several mobile phones at once on sight alone.
"People used to come all the time looking for new models, trading in their old phones and buying new accessories," says Mohammad al Ghal, a salesman at Asala Phones. "They don't do that as often now. They hang on to their phones for longer periods and they don't buy new accessories as much." Another factor in the decline in sales is the sheer concentration of mobile shops competing for the same customer base.
"Because we have too many shops in one area, the competition is too much and we are forced to lower prices to get customers," says Abdul Munem al Hariri, the manager of the Golden Crown mobile store. As well as lowering prices, mobile phone shops on Defence Road have had to introduce other incentives to make a sale. "When a customer buys a new phone, we can give either an extended warranty, SIM card or accessories for free," Mr al Hariri says.
Shop owners hope sales will pick up as summer approaches and consumers buy mobiles and accessories as gifts before going on holiday. email@example.com