x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Christmas cheer for retailers across UAE

Retailers in the UAE were full of festive cheer over Christmas, with several reporting double-digit increases in sales.

An improvement in the country's economic climate has led to an increase in spending during the festive season. Fatima Al Marzouqi / The National
An improvement in the country's economic climate has led to an increase in spending during the festive season. Fatima Al Marzouqi / The National

Christmas brought festive cheer to retailers across the UAE with a wide array of stores reporting double-digit growth in sales.

Healthy spending on food, electronic items and clothes this month is a sign of renewed consumer confidence, according to Euromonitor International analysts.

Even the tough market for printed books grew this year despite the publishing world failing to produce a soaraway bestseller in the league of the Harry Potter books.

"We were reasonably optimistic in our forecasts, but we exceeded those. Dubai showed some very healthy growth," said Narain Jashanmal, the general manager of Jashanmal bookstores.

Mr Jashanmal said the company's Dubai outlets benefited from a 30 per cent increase in sales compared with last Christmas. Outlets in Sharjah enjoyed a 15 per cent increase during the festive period, he said.

"Overall, the bookstores are significantly up for us," said Mr Jashanmal, whose figures relate to stores open for longer than one year.

"For 2012, I'm reasonably optimistic that we're going to continue to see some growth. "We've got a couple of new stores and some refurbishment of older stores in the pipeline."

The research firm Euromonitor International, which tracks the UAE market, said it expected "healthy growth" across the overall retail industry this Christmas.

"Spending over the festive period in 2011 will be higher than during the same period last year, with consumer confidence returning," said Sana Toukan, the research manager for the Middle East at Euromonitor.

"We have seen a tremendous improvement in economic performance in 2011, with more jobs being created and more expatriates moving back to the UAE, signalling a reversal of the trend witnessed in 2009 and 2010 when the economic crisis was at its peak."

Ashish Panjabi, the chief operating officer at Jacky's Group, which runs a chain of electronics stores in the UAE, said "sales were up" this Christmas.

"Products that have done well include the smartphone category in general, and this was given a real boost with the introduction of the iPhone 4S," Mr Panjabi said. "Cameras traditionally do well in the festive season and we saw a growth of 12 per cent."

However, Mr Panjabi said supply issues because of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and flooding in Thailand "has somewhat held back growth towards the end of 2011".

Online retailers based in the UAE also reported higher sales during the festive season.

Julien Pascual, the chief executive of EmiratesAvenue.com, said sales for the site had risen 50 per cent in the month leading up to Christmas Day compared with the same period last year.

"E-commerce is becoming bigger every year in the UAE," he said. "In the few weeks before [Christmas], we sold over half a million dirhams of goods."

Best-selling items on the site this year included the iPad 2, iPhone and Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone. "Products that have been selling slower are BlackBerrys and HTC phones and tablets," Mr Pascual said.

The retail portal JadoPado, which delivers goods to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, reported a month-on-month increase in visitors to the site.

"A rough estimate is that sales grew month-on-month by 30 per cent," said Omar Kassim, the founder of JadoPado. "Interest in smartphones and tablets continues to grow."

However, Mr Kassim said the euro-zone crisis could weigh heavily on the UAE retail industry next year.

"It will be interesting to see if Europe and the issues that it faces may potentially affect us during the [first half of] 2012," he said. "Everyone is hoping that it won't, but it's likely that reduced tourist numbers and lower levels of economic growth globally will affect both Dubai and the UAE in a negative manner."

bflanagan@thenational.ae