For retailers, a surge in sales over Eid

Year-end bounty, helped by increase in GCC tourism, ends a lull tied to global downturn and could make for a strong Christmas

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Eid al Adha brought a surge in sales and customer traffic for many retailers in the UAE, but the brisk activity has since settled back down, industry sources say. Retailers are now hoping for another wave of shoppers as the Christmas holiday approaches. "Eid sales were very good," said Keith Flanagan, the general manager of Al Ghurair Retail, which manages brands such as Springfield clothing stores. "It was the first time we saw increases on last year. Post-Eid, its gone back to where it was. But there was a little hint of a silver lining there.

"Certainly, we saw some GCC tourism come back in for the holidays and they were the ones making the difference. I'm just hoping the same thing happens towards the end of December." Retail sales in the Emirates have struggled this year, shifting from the double-digit annual growth of recent years to declines of as much as 40 per cent. But consumer confidence, globally as well as in the UAE, has started to improve in the past two months and shoppers are starting to open their wallets a little wider.

During Eid al Adha, retailers also reaped the benefits of the holiday's proximity to payday and a longer holiday, which allowed for more visitors to come to the Emirates. "We had the best Eid ever; we had record footfall across the board," said Shahram Shamsaee, the senior vice president of retail for Majid Al Futtaim Shopping Malls, which owns the Mall of the Emirates and Deira City Centre. On average, customer traffic was up 16 to 17 per cent from Eid last year and 20 per cent at Mall of the Emirates.

The main driver was a surge in regional tourism to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, said Robert Ziegler, the vice president of the management consultancy AT Kearney in Dubai. "I don't think this is something that is coming from the UAE itself," he said. "This is coming from the GCC visitors over Eid. There was a lot of traffic over Eid. "A lot of people came here and that has definitely driven business up." Most retailers saw double-digit sales growth compared with the holiday last year.

Nilesh Ved, the chairman of the Apparel Group, which is based in Dubai and has 520 stores globally, said the group's sales during Eid were its highest ever, up 20 per cent from last year. V Nandakumar, the corporate communications manager for the Emke Group, which runs Lulu Hypermarkets, said sales were up by 15 to 20 per cent during the holiday this year. "The slowdown in the economy is not really affecting the hypermarket business," he said. "We're not at the luxury end; we're not at the top end of the retail market."

He said Lulu had already started preparing for the anticipated Christmas rush by stocking foods such as turkeys. Ashish Panjabi, the chief operating officer of Jacky's Electronics, said sales were up 23 per cent across all its locations compared with last year's Eid al Adha. "We've had a few upswings this year, but Eid really reminded us of the old days," he said. Sales have returned to pre-Eid levels, but Mr Panjabi was hoping for another holiday-fuelled spike towards the end of the month.

"In a normal scenario, it would start 15 days before Christmas, when you start to see an upswing. This year, because Eid was so close, the Christmas shopping might have been done during those holidays. So, whether the jump will be quite to the scale we normally see is yet to be seen."