Every January, for the past 16 consecutive years the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) has and boosted the retail trade industry in Dubai, catering to visitors from all over the world with its attractions and special deals.
The event, which lasts for 32 days, is an important part of Dubai’s revenue, entertaining tourists and residents alike with shows and promotions around the clock.
“The Dubai Shopping Festival plays a major role in supporting the economy of Dubai and boosting it in various sectors, some sectors more than others,” said Laila Suhail, chief executive officer for festival organizer Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment.
However, this year so far, sales have decreased in comparison with previous years, as many customers are spending less on retail. Retailers say the instability of the global economy is the reason.
“The momentum from December onwards has been very positive, and if you see the first few days of January – I don’t have the sales yet – but if you see the footfall, it has been very positive; there are lots of tourists, lots of residents shopping, lots of shopping bags, so I am quite optimistic," said Fuad al-Najjar, asset director at the Deira City Centre, one of the major shopping centers taking part in the festival.
The DSF, which started in 1996 as a government initiative, not only offers discounted prices, but also gives shoppers the chance to win gold, cars, jewelry and other prizes. In addition, and firework displays and strolls through souks are popular events.
Another staple of the DSF are the performers and dancers who dress in colorful costumes and entertain audiences in shopping centers around the city.
According to Suhail, the festival attracted more than 4 million visitors in 2011, with the majority coming from India, the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia.
In 2011, the contribution to Dubai’s economy from retail, travel and hospitality spending in the emirate during the festival totaled 15.1 billion dirhams ($4.1 billion), according to DEPE, an amount equivalent to about five percent of Dubai’s 2010 gross domestic product.
“We focus our marketing campaign on Gulf countries, who make up our biggest market; following that comes the Asian and European markets,” said Suhail. “This year we have focused on China, considering the importance of the Chinese market to tourism in the Middle East, and more specifically to Dubai.”
In 2010, retail and trade sector contributed to 30 percent of the emirates GDP, a higher percentage than seen in most other cities worldwide.