x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Nike retailer revamps Dubai stores with $10m infusion

Dubai-based retailer Sun & Sand Sports pumps more than $10 million into new Nike concept stores, which will use special heat sensors to track customer movements.

The opening of the Nike new concept store in Mall of the Emirates, Dubai. Duncan Chard for the National
The opening of the Nike new concept store in Mall of the Emirates, Dubai. Duncan Chard for the National

A Dubai retailer has followed Nike's command to "just do it" - by pumping more than US$10 million (Dh36.7m) into four stores dedicated to the US sports brand.

Sun & Sand Sports, which holds the regional distribution rights for Nike products, is revamping four of its existing Nike outlets in Dubai.

At the Mall of the Emirates store, which was officially reopened on Friday, customers can have their names printed on team shirts and Nike football boots.

"Sun & Sand has invested many millions of dollars in the four Nike stores. You're talking double-digit millions," said Marvin Shaire, the group chief executive of Gulf Marketing Group, of which Sun & Sand Sports is part.

Dubai Mall is home to another of its concept stores, with others set to open at Ibn Buttuta and Dubai Festival City at the end of the month.

"It doesn't stop at four stores," said Mr Shaire, saying further expansion would depend on the success of the other stores.

The revamped Nike stores will focus on fewer product lines, with the revamped Mall of the Emirates branch specialising in football and running equipment.

"The concept depends on the region and country for us," said Michael Hunter, Nike's sales manager for the Middle East.

That means there is no rugby merchandise on sale in the new store - which may come as a disappointment to some fans given the Rugby World Cup is well under way.

"It's not an aversion to rugby," said Mr Hunter. "Obviously we sponsor the English side as well as the French side. Those shirts are being sold within other channels within Dubai. But for this store, the focus is on running and football."

Mr Shaire said there had been a 15 per cent increase in visitors to the Dubai Mall Nike store since it reopened this month.

"What has changed is the focus of the store," he said. "It's heavily focused on footwear, and it's heavily focused on running. That is Nike's decision. In other Nike-only stores, you would see golf, or you would see basketball."

The new stores will also have a high-tech customer-tracking system Mr Shaire said could be a first for the UAE.

Using heat sensors, the movement of individual customers will be monitored throughout the store, allowing managers to plan staffing and stock levels in certain sections.

"If you do it by heat sensor you can actually find out where they shop in the store, because the store will be zoned. So you can tell how many people visit the football section, the running section, you can split between male and female," said Mr Shaire.

"We'll launch [the tracking system] through most of our Nike stores initially, and then we'll put them through the Sun & Sands stores," he added. "I think we will probably be one of the first [in the UAE] to use it."

Despite the new Nike stores selling shirts for big-name teams, local squads also get a look in.

The Nike store will sell shirts of UAE teams such as Al Ahli - although Mr Shaire acknowledged demand may not be as great as for high-profile teams such as Manchester United and Barcelona.

"The best-selling shirt is the Barcelona football shirt. The minute it came out in black with the Qatar Foundation on, this store sold out," he said. "It sold 25 shirts in 10 minutes. I can't say you're going to get that with Al Ahli and Al Wasl."

bflanagan@thenational.ae