The UAE’s AED200 billion Retail Landscape Is Changing

03 Apr, 2017 - Consumer & Retail


The UAE has always enjoyed good shopping. One of Dubai’s historical shopping areas is on the shore of The Creek; a waterway inlet which is soon to be extended to link with the new Dubai Canal. The area is still busy with the arrival of wooden dhow’s sailing from Iran and further afield. The souqs (markets) of the emirates are still vibrant but compete somewhat with shopping malls. But, as traditional souqs have carved themselves a niche in trinkets, gold, carpets, and spices, shopping malls have increasingly become the place for clothes, food, and electronics. The average British-made product will be sold in a mall.

An article I wrote stating the UK’s High Street model does not apply to the UAE may soon be out of date. The UAE is home to some very extravagant malls, including Dubai Mall; one of the largest malls in the world. But there has been a very visible move by developers to offer retailers stand-alone stores. Could the UAE be returning to its shopping tradition of the outside souq; the High Street model if you will?

The most prominent of these developments is City Walk, an area close to Dubai’s shore which features cafes, shops, and entertainment events. City Walk often appears in local media as it could be said; it is the first area of its kind in the UAE. Yes, there are plenty of areas in the UAE where people can walk and shop but City Walk is positioned as a place shoppers can stroll while they shop. It isn’t a place to visit if you need a trolley full of vegetables.

In addition to City Walk there is the close-by Box Park, an area its website states is for ‘Urban Warriors’.  And, there are similar areas currently under development. The ‘Night Souq’ on the Deira Palm Island and as yet unnamed planned projects for Blue Waters and Dubai Harbour, are more examples. Dubai has made an international name for itself as a tourist destination and the locale of these retail developments caters very much to the tourist industry.

It is no surprise that the UAE is adapting its retail offering. The Dubai Chamber states growth is on average 5% and willreach AED200 billion by the time 2017 figures are collected. A.T. Kearney’s Global Retail Index for 2016 placed the UAE at seventh place, stating The UAE remains an attractive and relatively low-risk market option for retailers. In fact, the same report places Saudi Arabia one position below at 8. The Kingdom is going through somewhat of a retail revolution due largely to a young demographic and a renewed desire by the government to internationalise the country.

We’re in the UK regularly with our partners at the Department of International Trade and the Chamber of Commerce network, and we reciprocate in the UAE facilitating trade missions. If you are a UK manufacturer and want to either take full advantage of the BCB scheme, or simply want some more information, you can contact me here 


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