UAE residents say luxury is not just an indulgence but a lifestyle, and feel less guilty about buying flashy high-end goods than their counterparts in many other countries. A quarter of the people surveyed in the UAE said luxury was a lifestyle, and only one in five said luxury was "over and above what you need". Across the whole group of more than 8,000-odd surveyed by Synovate in 11 markets, including Hong Kong and the UK, however, nearly twice as many as in the UAE, classified luxury as something "over and above what you need", at 35 per cent of respondents.
Per-Henrik Karlsson, Synovate's business development director in Dubai, said this attitude stemmed from the number of high-end brands with stores in the UAE, and the billboards and advertisements that cultivate Dubai's image of luxury. "If you look at the big shopping malls, if you go into the Dubai Mall and its Fashion Avenue, you have all the luxury brands represented there," he said. "In other markets, such as in Asia, you wouldn't see that amount of brands available for consumers."
The Middle East, with its wealthy residents and consumers with a penchant for logo-speckled gear, has been a booming market for luxury retailers in recent years. Even though global luxury sales were predicted to drop by 10 per cent, from 170 billion (Dh807.31bn) in 2008 to 152bn in 2009, the region's sales were expected to defy the trend and grow by two per cent, according to the research firm Bain and Company.
Residents of the Emirates are also more brand-conscious. While 47 per cent of those surveyed overall in November said they preferred items with logos, 58 per cent of UAE residents said they wanted names on their goods. They are decisive in the Emirates too: the largest , almost a quarter, buy their luxury goods as soon as they want them, while in the UK, for example, just one in eightt buy as impulsively. In the UK, 28 per cent research alternatives before buying the item of best value, while only half that number in the UAE would shop that way.
Luca Solca, a luxury research analyst with Sanford C Bernstein in London, said this appetite for luxury brands was typical in emerging markets such as the Middle East. "I think the Middle East is one of the few places today where consumers are not feeling burdened by the economic situation and happy to spend," he said. Consumer confidence in the UAE had been rising steadily since early last year when the downturn began to take hold here, but Dubai World's call for a standstill agreement in November last year shook residents, according to a Nielsen survey released last week.
According to the latest survey by Bayt.com and YouGov Siraj, consumer sentiment in the UAE fell 4.8 points, the first drop since the first quarter of last year. In the region, only confidence in Morocco fell further, by five points. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon and Bahrain moved up the consumer confidence index. Still, residents in the UAE say they consume more luxury goods than many other markets, according to Synovate.
"If you have branded clothes [in the UAE], it is not seen as anything unusual," said Mr Karlsson. "But for other markets, when people make that investment it is more rare and seen as something to treat themselves with only occasionally." @Email:email@example.com