Monday Jul 29, 2013

Middle East eCommerce – Shopping is Big Here

I just got back from a week-long visit to the Middle East spending time with retailers in UAE and Kuwait.  It was the height of summer, with temperatures around 44C/111F and the holy month of Ramadan – a uniquely Middle Eastern experience.

Also uniquely Middle Eastern was the state of retail.  Wherever I turned, concierges, friends and well-wishers suggested I visit their country’s malls.  From the Dubai Mall, to the Emirates Mall, to the Avenues Mall in Kuwait.  Shopping is big here.  In 1996 Dubai established the 1-month “Shopping Festival”.  Even Ramadan has been intertwined with a shopping experience, with malls hanging greetings of “Ramadan Kareem” throughout the halls and certain malls running Ramadan Campaigns (‘ A Ramadan to Remember’http://www.tradearabia.com/news/RET_239438.html)

I had to see what they had in store.  Each mall is an architectural marvel.  The Burj Al Khalifa, at 829.8 m (2,722 ft) is the tallest building in the world and an anchor of the Dubai Mall.  The mall of the Emirates includes a ski slope, complete with real snow.  Each mall is marbled and cool, comparable to malls in the US (Natick Mall, Mall of America, Destiny USA) or Europe (Galleries Lafayette in Paris, Westfield mall in London, Colombo Centro Comercial in Lisbon) but for an over-the-top attraction, some Islamic-influenced architectural details and an advertising break for Ramadan prayers.  A great majority of the retailers are familiar- from the highest end Tiffany’s, Chopard, Rolex, Stella McCartney to the practical Nike, Gap, Starbucks. 

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