x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Gadgets help shops' Eid sales surge

Retailers are experiencing an increase in business compared to last year, as shoppers buy gifts for Eid and Gulf tourists flock to the UAE.

Families spend the early hours yesterday at a shopping mall in Dubai as they celebrate the last day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday. AFP
Families spend the early hours yesterday at a shopping mall in Dubai as they celebrate the last day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday. AFP

Shoppers are spending more on gadgets such as iPads and smartphones this Eid, leading retailers to predict an increase in sales compared with last year's festive period.

Shops have also benefited as tourists from other Gulf countries have headed to Dubai, with many travellers still avoiding troubled holiday spots in the region.

"Being the summer time and hot, outdoor activities are restricted," said V Nandakumar, the head of corporate communications at Lulu Hypermarket group. "Inevitably the only place the crowds can go to is the mall. Eid generally is the time when people shop for new clothes, even home appliances, gifting. What we've seen is a very good response. We could see footfall rising very dramatically in the last two to three days."

He said business had been helped because Eid was during the school holidays, along with the extended government break in the UAE for the festival.

It was too early to say how this year's Eid sales compared with last year's, he said, but estimated that traffic at Lulu's stores was up by as much as 20 per cent from before Eid.

Electronics had been among the most popular purchases this year, with shoppers keen on LCDs, and on iPads and other tablet devices, Mr Nandakumar said. Good deals on TVs and stereos across various shops in the malls had attracted consumers, he said. The Xbox Kinect and Nintendo Wii have been popular gifts this year, he added.

Hoteliers said they had seen an influx of tourists from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states during Eid, as those visitors took the opportunity to get away after Ramadan and before the start of the new school term.

Attractively priced Eid packages had helped bring tourists into the country, retailers said.

Omar Abushaban, the general manager of the electronics retail chain Plug-Ins, said its busiest store so far this Eid was at Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi.

"Abu Dhabi always blows up in terms of traffic during Eid," said Mr Abushaban.

He said there had been a definite pick-up in sales of smartphones and tablets, which were proving to be popular gift items.

He estimated that sales were up by less than 5 per cent compared with Eid last year, with lower prices helping to attract buyers.

"Overall, the two days there was just a very slight growth over last year's Eid," he said.

"Average selling prices across all categories are coming down."

The long government holiday meant that sales are spread over the whole week rather than concentrated during one weekend.

"It kind of helps and hurts at the same time. We kind of spread the weekend traffic that we'll get if Eid was falling on the weekend over a five day stretch."

Food and beverage sales at restaurants in the malls have also seen a spike after Ramadan.

"People are really coming back for shopping, definitely," said Eisa Adam Ibrahim, the general manager of BurJuman Mall in Dubai. "The last two days restaurants and cafes are doing much better."

Clothes, jewellery and perfume were also popular gifts purchased for the start of Eid.

"There's a lot of impulse buying rather than serious shopping," said Mr Ibrahim. "My estimation is that this year is definitely better than last year. Most of the people are back for Ramadan this year, rather than holidaying in the West. Also there's a lot of people in Dubai because of what's happening in the region."

Firoz Merchant, the chief executive of Pure Gold, said his stores had also benefited significantly from the increase in tourists in Dubai.

Gold and diamond jewellery were proving to be particularly popular options this year, he said.

"What we lost in the first 20 or 25 days of Ramadan, we make up for our lost business in the five days before Eid and the Eid holiday. We're very busy. Compared to the last year, we saw a good response. We're doing good business. My expectation is that we can see a 15 to 20 per cent increase in business compared to last year."