x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

BlackBerry stores set to sprout in UAE

Research in Motion hopes to set tills ringing across the Middle East with the launch of its own dedicated BlackBerry retail stores.

Research in Motion hopes to set tills ringing across the Middle East with the launch of its own dedicated BlackBerry retail stores.

The Canadian smartphone maker said it was opening stand-alone outlets as it aimed to capitalise on strong growth in the region, amid flagging global sales.

Sandeep Saighal, the Middle East managing director for Research in Motion (RIM), which makes BlackBerry handsets, said the first store would open in Dubai.

"We are in the final stages of negotiating a lease for the Dubai store and plan to open later this year," Mr Saighal said.

RIM confirmed it was considering launching stores in other Middle East markets, such as Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. It also said it would team up with the mobile-phone retailer Axiom for the launch of the branded stores. Axiom has 700 retail points across the Gulf region. Axiom did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The launch of dedicated BlackBerry stores marks a greater push by the company into the Middle East, where sales have held up better than in markets such as the United States and the United Kingdom.

Analysts said the dedicated stores could help BlackBerry retain its strong position in the regional smartphone market.

"The decision to set up a flagship store here in Dubai and in some other markets certainly makes sense," said Matthew Reed, a senior analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media.

"It could maintain and improve their strength in some of these emerging markets."

Mr Reed said the BlackBerry stores would allow the brand to demonstrate key features such as BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), and the PlayBook tablet, which has so far failed to rival the dominance of the Apple iPad.

However, Mr Reed added that the challenges for BlackBerry included retaining its reputation as a "prestigious brand", along with the competition it faced from new lower-priced smartphones.

RIM said 68 per cent of its business was now outside the North America and UK markets.

bflanagan@thenational.ae

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