Customers trade paper for plastic at the register

Shoppers are using their credit cards more at the tills.

Shoppers across the Emirates are increasingly using credit and debit cards to pay for their goods, retailers say.

Financing schemes, where shoppers pay for purchases in instalments over a number of months, are also gaining in popularity as banks promote their sales and marketing in this field.

Jacky's Electronics reports a 12 per cent increase in the use of credit cards this year from last year.

"There has always been this heavy dependence on credit within the local market but I think there's been a lot more marketing [this year] from banks," says Ashish Panjabi, the chief operating officer for Jacky's.

The high level of tourism as a percentage of retail sales has also encouraged the trend, he says, because visitors tend to carry less cash and put more on their credit card. Dubai in particular has seen a flood of tourists.

"When you look at the retail market here you have a strong component of tourism, they tend to carry more credit cards rather than cash." says Mr Panjabi.

Credit-card use at Jacky's mall-based outlets accounted for about 55 per cent of total transactions last year and has been running at 62 per cent so far this year.

Plug-Ins Electronix has experienced a similar level of growth in the use of credit cards and has also noted a small increase in the number of people paying for a purchase in instalments. "People are more inclined to use their credit cards now," says Omar Abushaban, the general manager of Plug-Ins.

"The big retailers are also all tying up with the banks to give financing purchases." Plug-Ins has deals in place with a number of banks to provide repayment schemes over six to 12 months. Although retailers report an increase in credit-card transactions, many believe their customers are more controlled in their spending and are not taking on the huge amounts of debt they did during Dubai's boom years.

"In spite of credit cards being higher, people are now more aware of the consequences of overdoing things," says Ishwar Chugani, the regional executive director of Giordano. "I believe the increase for us is down to increased visitors to the UAE."

Hasit Kakkad, the retail manager for Matalan in the Middle East, says there has been a marked increase in customers using debit cards at his company, which he attributes to more people having their salaries paid into a bank account.

"People who never had a debit card are now empowered to use them," he says. "The hassle of walking around with cash has gone out the window."

Published: August 21, 2011 04:00 AM


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