x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

UAE sales of luxury watches increase

Sales of watches are more than ticking over in the UAE as Chinese tourists flock to the malls in search of famous brands.

Sales of luxury watches have continued to grow rapidly this year across the Emirates as Chinese tourists flock to the country's malls in search of internationally recognised brands.

Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, one of the Middle East's largest watch companies, has seen double-digit growth in first five months of this year over the same period last year and aims to expand across the country in response to demand.

"People have shifted and are going back to the reassuring brands and ones that are well-known," said Christophe Nicaise, the chief executive of Ahmed Seddiqi. "It's a bit like investors' flight to gold and blue-chip companies after the financial crisis."

Ahmed Seddiqi has 50 stores across the UAE, representing brands such as Rolex, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Tag Heuer.

Mr Nicaise said sales had been buoyed by tourism in the first five months of the year, with travellers from China and Eastern Europe among the highest spenders.

About 152,000 visitors from China stayed in Dubai hotels last year, the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing said last month, with the figure for this year expected to be at least 50 per cent greater.

"The Chinese tourists were here before, but they were just limited in their spending," Mr Nicaise said.

According to a report released last week by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, sales of Swiss watches in the UAE were 81 per cent higher in the first quarter than in the same period in 2009.

The UAE and Saudi markets now account for about 6 per cent of total Swiss watch exports globally.

Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, which was established in 1950, is a family-owned business and the largest retailer of Swiss watches in the Middle East, with a portfolio of more than 50 brands.

Mr Nicaise said the company planned to expand across the Emirates, opening stores in Abu Dhabi, Fujairah, Al Ain and Ras al Khaimah.

"If you look at the market today in Dubai, it is a mature market in terms of retail. Some malls are anchor attractions and others are now serving the community," he said.

rjones@thenational.ae