It's that time of year again. Running until February 3, the Dubai Shopping Festival is in full swing. First established in 1996 and now in its 18th year, the internationally acclaimed event is trading under the banner “Dubai at its Best” this season, although “Dubai at its Busiest” might be more fitting.
For the next four weeks, there’s no such thing as “off-peak” at the major retail hubs and parking is at a premium. So tired of scouring the levels of The Dubai Mall did many drivers become that they resorted to waiting patiently for shoppers to emerge from the lifts before trailing them back to their parking spots. Unless you have an extra hour to kill, take the Dubai Metro or grab a cab.
Similarly, arm yourself with a bottle of water before you leave the house as the queues at Costa Coffee, Burger King and even the Ikea cafe in Festival City move at a glacial pace. The agonising 25-minute wait for a caffeine fix means you’re far more likely to order a double-shot once you finally reach the counter.
For the next four weeks, there's no such thing as "off-peak" at the major retail hubs and parking is at a premium. So tired of scouring the levels of The Dubai Mall did many drivers become that they resorted to waiting patiently for shoppers to emerge from the lifts before trailing them back to their parking spots. Unless you have an extra hour to kill, take the Dubai Metro or grab a cab.
Similarly, arm yourself with a bottle of water before you leave the house as the queues at Costa Coffee, Burger King and even the Ikea cafe in Festival City move at a glacial pace. The agonising 25-minute wait for a caffeine fix means you're far more likely to order a double-shot once you finally reach the counter.
For many, DSF marks the perfect opportunity to restock and revamp a wardrobe. However, be aware that sales are something designer labels simply don’t do.
Some diffusion lines, such as “Butterfly” by Matthew Williamson and Julian MacDonald’s “Star” range, are discounted, but the excessive draping, over-sequinned epaulettes and mumsy hues of plum and sage might not be to everyone’s taste.
On the flip side, there are some great bargains to be had at Mango, H&M and Zara. In the latter’s men’s section – classic cotton shirts in Henley blue with crisp, white collars and cuffs can be snapped up for just Dh145. Similarly, velvet jackets and tapered slacks are worth a look.
It’s a shoe-in at Zara
If you manage to battle your way through the frenzied crowds in Zara’s women’s section, your bravery will be rewarded. All the work-and-play staples you’ll ever likely need, from black pants to cocktail dresses, are generously discounted.
Bang-on-trend and therefore unlikely to last long, lemon yellow suede pumps with gold toe caps and chunky-heeled ankle boots are available in a wide range of sizes from Dh195 to Dh295.
Moreover, given the numerous pairs of Lincoln green velvet slip-ons with black moustache motif strewn around the store – which customers didn’t appear that keen to try – it seems highly likely that further reductions are on the way.
What’s in store
Heading for the major department stores is a sound tactic for sheer breadth of product and range of prices. That said, trolleys and baby strollers morph into battalions of battering rams in certain sections, namely children’s and homeware, so watch your ankles.
Harvey Nichols and Debenhams seemed two of the most civilised outlets, the latter offering discounts of up to 60 per cent on apparel.
Some of the best cost savings were to be found at Coast, where long georgette and silk chiffon gowns in jewel tones of emerald, ruby and sapphire were slashed by half to around Dh725. Also worth stocking up on are the eternally useful shrugs and cover-ups in every colour of the rainbow and going for a song at just Dh75.
Devil in the detail
While the DSF has only just officially got under way, many seasonal sales started in December which means that some rummaging is necessary in order to find the great deals that remain.
At the other end of the scale, and if you’re looking for bargain furniture, let’s say, you may be dismayed to find a modest 25-35 per cent discount on select items at Marina Home Exotic.
Arguably, another case in point is The One, where the cost-savings are somewhat marred by extra charges. Take a rather fabulous aged leather and chrome chair in the interior design store’s Mall of the Emirates branch, for example. Having been reduced from Dh5,495 to Dh3,571, a fee of Dh250 for home delivery during the sale period – where it would have ordinarily been free – threatens to leave some customers as distressed as the seat itself.
Come one, come all
Contrary to popular belief, the festival is not solely focused on shopping. From film promotions to concerts and sporting spectacles, the annual event aims to cater for the diverse interests of UAE residents and tourists. Al Ghurair Centre has an impressive array of puppet shows and jugglingdisplays in addition to the habitual face-painting stands and photo booths. Family entertainment takes place daily from 6.30pm -onwards.
Similarly, dancing dinosaurs, pipers and acrobats can’t be missed – mainly because the music and crowd participation is so loud – at malls from Marina to Mirdif.
If pyrotechnics are your thing, make your way to Dubai Creek, where organisers are promising a spectacular fireworks show to mark the festival’s finale.
Go for gold
One of the glittering promotions on offer this DSF has been launched by Dubai’s Lamcy Plaza. All customers spending Dh200 or more in the shopping destination’s outlets will be automatically entered into a draw for solid gold prizes. Eight winners will be selected over the four-week period to receive 24-carat bars, with two lucky customers receiving 100 gram ingots. If bullion fails to set your pulse racing, make sure you take advantage of the many raffles for airline tickets, cars and cash, available across the emirate during the month of January.
• Visit www.dubaievents.ae for more information