x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

A Christmas Carol

Shops slash prices to keep the tills ringing during Christmas amid fears that sales would be sluggish because the global economic slowdown.

Two year old Ryan Hamood and his father Qais, 39, from the UK, shop at Lulu Hypermarket in Al Wahda Mall.
Two year old Ryan Hamood and his father Qais, 39, from the UK, shop at Lulu Hypermarket in Al Wahda Mall.

Shops have been slashing prices to keep the tills ringing during Christmas amid fears that sales would be sluggish because the global economic slowdown. The tactic seems to have paid off. Stores reported brisk trade yesterday as shoppers snapped up last-minute presents and food for Christmas Day. Tim Jones, the chief operating officer of Lamcy Plaza in Dubai, said sales and customer numbers in the run-up to Christmas were up about 10 per cent compared with last year.

"Quite a few shops" in the mall, Mr Jones said, launched sales earlier this year than last, probably because of smaller customer numbers over the past few months. "Presumably October and November were fairly quiet so stocks have increased - they had more stocks than they would like at this time of year, so they're discounting now rather than in January, when they would normally." Mr Jones said he thought some of the more upmarket malls had been suffering.

"Maybe we're not affected as much as some of the other malls. People are talking about it and you can just see it when you visit the malls - they're very, very quiet," he said. "The higher-end malls are probably seeing more of an impact than those that are more mid-market." Sally Meech, public relations manager for Wafi Mall, reported that customer numbers were up on last year. However, she added that "the looming recession is likely to make a difference in the new year".

Some shops confirmed that the market had become tighter. Ashish Panjabi, chief operating officer of electronics retailer Jacky's, said sales in recent weeks had been "OK, but not spectacular", which he attributed to fewer tourists than normal rather than a reduction in the number of residents buying presents. "If you speak to the airlines and hotels about the tourists coming in, that translates to the retail sales.

"But local customers are still spending for Christmas, we've not seen that change. But the income that comes from tourists, we've probably seen some dips in that." Mr Panjabi said some shoppers were waiting until Dubai Shopping Festival, which begins in January before buying some larger items. He added that cameras and mobile phones continue to sell well. Some outlets said they had seen no sign of their trade being affected by the economic slowdown, including Lulu and Spinneys.

A spokeswoman for Spinneys said yesterday was particularly busy. "People are getting their last-minute Christmas shopping done," she said. "The season started slow but it's certainly picked up now." The Mall of the Emirates in Dubai yesterday suffered a power cut at around 3.15pm that plunged the mall into darkness. Back-up generators helped to restore power. dbardsley@thenational.ae eharman@thenational.ae