Money is tight for almost everyone these days, and the global economic uncertainty is making even those untouched by the turmoil think twice before opening their wallets. But there is good news this summer for consumers seeking a good deal or an inexpensive - or even free - way to pass the time. To keep people shopping during these months, when UAE residents typically travel abroad to escape the heat, Dubai Summer Surprises (DSS) offers 65 days of promotions, contests and free events across the city.
"What consumers will be looking for during this recession time is value for money," said Laila Suhail, the chief executive of the Dubai Shopping Festival office, which runs DSS. "And that is what we are trying to bring to life." That means designer cocktail dresses for as much as 70 per cent off the retail price, and free indoor concerts and activities for kids getting antsy at home during the school holidays. Almost two dozen malls in Dubai are participating, including Mall of the Emirates (MoE) and Dubai Mall. To up the ante, the Dubai Shopping Malls Group is running a weekly draw, called Surprising Millions, in which customers who spend Dh200 per shopping trip in any of the participating malls can enter a raffle to win 10 prizes worth Dh50,000. A total of Dh5 million is being given away during the event.
Last year, DSS lured 2.1m visitors to Dubai, half of whom came from abroad, and they spent Dh3.25 billion during the event. Ms Suhail said the organisers hoped to attract the same number for 12th edition of the shopping festival this year, which runs from June 11 to August 14. However, as people are more likely to stay close to home in these times, she believes that there will be more visitors from GCC countries, rather than from Europe.
Shoppers will continue to enjoy sales even after DSS because Dubai retailers have been given a special licence to offer discounts for four months in a row this year. This extended season of promotions covers DSS, Ramadan, the back-to-school shopping period and Eid al Fitr, said Ms Suhail. It was "given to the retailers so they can actually be creative and really give value-added promotions to consumers throughout the four-month period", she said.
Here are some of the budget-friendly highlights of DSS: BurJuman Centre The high-fashion mall with stores such as Dolce & Gabbana and Ralph Lauren is not where you would expect to find bargains. But fashionistas may find a reason to splurge, since more than 100 of its 300 stores are taking part in BurJuman's "Summer Sugar" promotion, offering gift vouchers, value-back coupons and discounts of up to 70 per cent. For example, a Christian Dior handbag, normally priced at Dh10,300 has been discounted to Dh5,150. Max Azria has slashed the price of its dresses as well; one design that was Dh2,090 is now being offered for Dh621. And if you would rather stroll than shop, the mall will be blanketed with thousands of flowers as part of its "summer garden" theme.
Mall of the Emirates In addition to sales in more than 400 stores, MoE will be giving away Dh100,000 twice weekly to customers who spend more than Dh300. The draw, which is a joint promotion with its sister mall, Deira City Centre, will give away double the amount in the last week of DSS. Or, if you are looking for a way to keep the kids active during the summer months, the MoE has launched a free mall-walking programme specifically designed for children six years old and above.
The programme, which begins at 8.30am on weekdays and runs until mid-August, is supervised and led by a walk leader to educate the kids with helpful health tips. Dubai Mall In addition to discounts at the 900 shops lining the 1.12 million square metre mall, there will be free shows and entertainment for kids and adults alike. Six Hello Kitty characters and a singer will stage live theatrical performances at the Star Atrium. Dubbed the Hello Kitty Jungle Party, the show featuring the popular Sanrio character will be held daily, except for Tuesdays, until July 22. Or, if classic musicals is more your speed, there will be dancers and singers performing shows including Phantom of the Opera, We Will Rock You, as well as Bollywood shows at the Star Atrium, starting on July 29.
Deira City Centre Deira City Centre, in conjunction with MoE, will be giving customers who spend more than Dh300 the chance to win Dh100,000 twice weekly, with a draw for double the amount by the end of DSS. There are several family fun events as well, with the Modhesh Discovery Centre, a mobile interactive learning exhibition featuring DSS's mascot, running at the mall until July 9. For children who want meet and greet Modhesh, the yellow and blue cartoon character will be at the mall every Monday throughout the festival. Activities include the Weaving Exhibit and the Building Blocks of Learning. For virtual recreation, head to DCC on July 10 and 11 for the first qualifying round of the World Gaming Championship.
If fashion is more your son's or daughter's fare, then visit the mall between July 24 and 30 for the Kids' Fashion Week, a signature event of the festival. There is also a concert with a message, when the African Children's Choir makes a tour stop on July 27 and 28. The troupe's members, aged between seven and 12 from Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, are some of their countries' neediest children. Proceeds from the global tour go towards the children's care and education when they return home. National Geographic has teamed up with DSS for this year's DSS Photography Exhibition. Professionals and amateurs can display their work under this year's theme of Emirati Cultural Heritage. The photos are then judged by a jury for the DSS Photography Award.
Dubai Festival City At least 148 of the shopping centre's 600 stores are cutting prices during the festival. Among the biggest discounters are Pierre Cardin, Bugatti, Ted Lapidus, Nautica, Danier and Nine West, with reductions of up to 75 per cent. Besides this, shoppers who spend more than Dh200 at any of its 600 outlets, including 100 restaurants, can enter a weekly draw in which the five winners take home Dh100,000 each.
The mall will be giving away a total of Dh4.5m, including vouchers and gifts. The African Children's Choir will perform at the mall on July 21 and 22 as part of a series of free events. Dubai Outlet Mall In addition to discounts of between 30 and 90 per cent, spot prizes will be given away at random to shoppers, who can also win gift vouchers worth their total purchase amounts. Among the free events for children are workshops that teach them to make finger puppets from everyday materials, paint designs on the tips of their fingers and nail art.
Ibn Battuta Mall Thirty-three retailers and restaurants here are offering discounts for DSS, with up to 75 per cent off at Kani Home and Lifestyle Jewellery, and up to 70 per cent off at Sun and Sand Sports, Ginger and Lace, Tuc Tuc and Bench. As part of the mall's Summer Fiesta during DSS, it has built the UAE's first indoor roller rink at its India Court. The rink is open from 1pm to 10pm between Sunday and Wednesday, and from 1pm to midnight between Thursday and Saturday.
It costs Dh30 on weekdays, Dh40 on weekends and Dh50 for the Friday theme nights. For children and parents looking for free fun, there are photo sessions in the Egypt Court for kids to pose with the legendary Arab traveller and the shopping centre's namesake, Ibn Battuta, and friends from the regions he explored. The sessions are held every 90 minutes, from 2pm on Fridays and 12 noon on Saturdays until 10pm. Kids can also play video games for free at the PlayStation Zone in China Court.
Oasis Centre Sales abound at the reopened Oasis Centre mall, which was rebuilt after being destroyed in a fire three years ago. There are discounts of up to 75 per cent at its flagship brands, including Home Centre and Splash, and several other stores such as Nike, Ecco and New Look. If you spend Dh200, you can enter the draw to win some of the Dh300,000 worth of diamond jewellery from the UAE-based jewellery retailer Joyalukkas, which has partnered with the shopping centre for the festival. Even if you are not looking to spend any money, you could still win prizes such as flight tickets and jewellery in Memory Mania, an interactive family game show held every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The contestants are shown various items and asked to recall, and win, as many as possible within 30 seconds. The prizes are hidden within the items.
Wafi Centre In addition to offering discounts and prizes, the pyramid-shaped shopping centre will host this year's signature event, Art Oasis, from July 9 to 15. People can view, for free, artwork such as photographs, sculptures and paintings by local and regional artists, all under the environmental theme of Go Green. If collectables is more your passion, head to Wafi from July 27 and Aug 7 for the Collectors Exhibition.
Modhesh World Modhesh, the smiley-faced mascot of DSS, is everywhere in Dubai: perched on street signs, or along Sheikh Zayed Road as you drive into the emirate from Abu Dhabi. Now the ubiquitous mascot has Modhesh World, the region's largest indoor entertainment venue. Located at Dubai Airport Expo, its 37,000 square metres feature 50 separate events. Children can have pillow fights, ride miniature horses, build furniture, or jump around in the Bounce and Adventure park. Kids can also weave through the Mystical Maze - the biggest of its kind in the region. Cameras have been placed throughout the maze, and parents can watch their children work their way through, and even interact with them via microphones. For the more scholarly, there is the Book Bazaar, which features a library and storytelling. There is live "edutainment" as well, such as The Great Sea Adventure Show. Admission is Dh10 for adults and Dh15 for children.
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