x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Online shopping is 'boring' says UAE retail exec

One of the UAE's biggest retail bosses has called internet shopping 'boring'.

One of the UAE's biggest retail executives has described online shopping as 'boring' and doesn't believe it will ever replace physical stores.

Mohi-din BinHendi, president of BinHendi Enterprises, which is the partner for 75 brands in the UAE, says online shopping will never be a big market for the "Jet-Set" of luxury shoppers.

"You do not interact with anybody but only a screen and your fingertips. In malls you walk around, mingle with people and feel the products," said Mr BinHendi at the InRetail Summit held today in Dubai.

"Shopping for luxury goods, clothes and jewellery, I do not think it will ever happen that online will take away this pleasure for shoppers. Online shopping will never replace what we have today," he added.

But many executives disagree with Mr BinHendi's assessment and believe online shopping is rapidly set to become popular among consumers.

"Every retailer needs to think about online," said Nisreen Shocair, the president of Virgin Middle East and North Africa. "I do not think it is an option, it is a matter of when."

Virgin continues to invest in expanding its physical stores, but also plans to launch an online digital music download before the end of the year.

Price and convenience will be the two factors driving shoppers online as consumers increasingly value time saved, Ms Shocair said.

"If there are some brands that have not given [retailers] the option to go online, then this is the next conversation to be had," she added.

JPMorgan forecasts global e-commerce revenues to grow dramatically this year, up 18.9 per cent to US$680 billion (Dh2.49 trillion) compared to last year.

But e-commerce has been slow to take off in the Middle East where just 6 per cent internet users regularly shop online, according to a recent survey by the Dubai market research company Real Opinions.

Simon Marshall, chief executive of Fawaz Alhokair, a Saudi-based retailer with more than 1000 stores around the Middle East, forecasts online sales to make up 20 to 25 per cent of total sales within five years.

"Online is a massive opportunity. It's significant for us," he said.