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Plenty of window shoppers, few buyers

The annual Eid al Fitr spending spree failed to materialise in certain retail sectors as store owners reported plenty of shoppers but very little purchasing.

DUBAI // The annual Eid al Fitr spending spree failed to materialise in certain retail sectors yesterday as store owners reported plenty of shoppers but very little purchasing. The luxury goods sector appears to have been the hardest hit; some jewellers said sales were down by 70 per cent from last Eid. The Eid break is typically among the busiest shopping periods of the year as families flock to malls to buy gifts, especially jewellery, children's toys and clothes. Several malls last year said they attracted 30 per cent more customers than on standard shopping days.

Shoppers turned out in large numbers yesterday at Deira City Centre, home to numerous jewellery stores, but most were reluctant to part with their cash. "These are the worst times I've seen in this business, ever," said Azeez Rahman, manager of the Prima Gold store. "People just don't want to spend, and instead they are buying other things, like clothes." Last year, people were willing to splurge on diamonds, Mr Rahman said.

Mohammed Shameer, manager of Golden Ring, said shoppers last year spent an average of Dh6,000 to Dh10,000 (US$1,630 to $2,720) on jewellery gifts for Eid. "There has definitely been a 60 to 70 per cent drop because of the recession," Mr Shameer said. "On top of that, we are selling luxuries like diamonds, which are not seen as a necessity, so people don't spend on that now. "For Eid, people are focusing on gifts such as clothes, sweets and electronics because [the vendors] have slashed their prices."

Another reason for the reduced spending on jewellery is the decline in resale value of many pieces, store owners said. As the malls filled with people yesterday, many vendors stood at their doorways, watching families pass their empty stores, pausing occasionally to glance at window displays. Jewellery is no longer at the top of shoppers' gift lists, said Dashrath Soni, the acting manager of the G.B. store in Deira City Centre.

That leaves store workers to stand idly, waiting for the time to pass. "Last year we did not have time to take a break or eat anything because we were so busy, but this year all we do is just sit and relax," he said. Several clothing stores and shops that sell traditional crafts also voiced concern after the sales they had been relying on never happened. "We have seen more than a 50 per cent drop in the business since last Eid," said Khalil, a sales assistant for Regional Trading, a store in Mall of the Emirates that specialises in pashminas and handcrafted materials.

The shop's pashminas range from as cheap as Dh50 all the way to Dh75,000. Last year, shoppers would spend around Dh13,000, Khalil said. This year, they were mostly sticking to cheaper items or not buying at all. "They would rather look and window shop than actually spend," he said. "In Ramadan we were hoping for Eid to pick up the business, but now it is Eid and we did not get what we wanted for the business. This is a worry for us."

nsamaha@thenational.ae

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