Gulf fashionistas are turning to online shopping

Take our shopping survey: Shopping online is not quite all the rage yet across the Gulf - but more and more fashionistas are buying on the web.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - August 14: The Giordano clothing store at the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai on August 14, 2008.  (Randi Sokoloff / The National) *** Local Caption ***  RS015-GIORDANO.jpgBZ20AU_Giordano3.jpg
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Fashionistas across the Arabian Gulf are increasingly buying online for their retail kicks as e-commerce stores predict the Web is now at tipping point for sales., Giordano and all report growing numbers of shoppers looking for clothing, shoes and accessories online as the overall e-commerce market burgeons this year.

"The consumer is hungry for fashion retail online elsewhere in the world and there's no reason consumers here cannot be any different," said Hosam Arab, one of the co-founders and managing directors at Namshi, which launched late last year.

It is now selling more than 500 brands and up to 80,000 shoppers are clicking on to the website each day.

It delivers to the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, which is Namshi's biggest market.

"[The Gulf] is a very retail-based market with big spending power, low competition and the right structure underpinning that to support e-commerce," said Muhammed Mekki, who is also the co-founder and managing director at Namshi. "We are a fashion mall that comes to your doorstep with a risk-free experience."

About US$36.2 million (Dh133m) was spent on fashion items online in the UAE last year, a tiny fraction of the overall clothing market, according to Euromonitor International, the research group.

Online shoppers in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt spent $1.01 billion on internet retail sites last year, according Euromonitor, with that figure expected to double by 2016.

"For us we always saw this [fashion] category was growing but we thought presentation of this category required a lot more work," said Ronaldo Mouchawar, the chief executive of Souq, which earlier this month launched Souq Fashion, a separate part of the website that offers the latest clothing and live tips from stylists.

"Fashion shopping is more about browsing. There's got to be a lot more detail," he added.

Mr Mouchawar said the retail industry in the UAE was worth about $30bn but online made up less than 1 per cent of that figure.

Souq has more than 8 million visitors per month to its site and aims to convert more and more of those from categories such as electronics to clothing, shoes and accessories.

Fashion retail is often viewed as one of the most difficult segments of shopping to get right online, because customers are usually very particular about clothing and want to ensure that they get the right size.

But websites such as Namshi and Souq offer free returns for customers at no extra cost in order to entice them to buy.

"We can offer selection," said Mr Arab. "The majority of our brands are not available in the UAE, let alone in remote parts of Saudi Arabia and Oman."

Giordano, the clothing brand from Hong Kong, opened an e-commerce store in April for the Middle East to complement its stores throughout the region.

Ishwar Chugani, the managing director of Giordano Middle East, said the online store had been popular among shoppers looking for bargains, particularly since offering cash on delivery.

"It's growing. The hits are growing," he said. "People are using the website more and more."