Ikea, the world's biggest furniture retailer, plans to launch a website early next year to allow UAE customers to buy goods online and have them delivered home.
Mile Franicevic, the general manager in the UAE for Ikea, which is part of the Al-Futtaim Group, said the retailer's website would have the same capability as Ikea's other websites overseas.
"It's good news, it's something we have been chasing for ages," Mr Franicevic said. "Some time in the first quarter of next year consumers will be shopping online."
The website is designed to allow customers to add goods to a virtual shopping basket, pay for them online via credit card and have them delivered home. Mr Franicevic said the website would allow shoppers to view goods they were interested in, such as furniture items, in virtual 3D and in a range of colour schemes. "It will hopefully improve sales, but it's also about enhancing the customer shopping experience," he said.
Carrefour, the French superstore chain, was the first of the UAE's major retailers to go online when it launched www.ic4uae.comin September. UAE customers can buy more than 3,000 non-food items such as electronic goods, homeware and beauty-care products on the site.
Other retailers including Lulu are considering launching similar websites in the coming months.
The online marketing company Webology signed a contract with a leading UAE retailer last week that will enable it to move online with Webology's e-commerce platform, My Retail.
Zeid Kaddoura, a director of Webology, would notname the retailer but said his company had enjoyed a "huge pick-up" in interest this year to develop retail websites.
"There's been much more interest this year from retailers than last and we are in talks with several retailers and other organisations," Mr Kaddoura said.
Euromonitor, an independent data provider, predicts internet retail spending in the UAE will almost double over the next four years, rising from Dh701 million (US$190.8m) last year to Dh1.3 billion in 2015, with consumer electronics accounting for the biggest increase.
"What happens is that one major retailer is the first to go online, and competitors follow so they do not get left behind and [to] maintain their brand," Mr Kaddoura said.
Ikea plans to implement a software programme customised across its stores in September called Microsoft Dynamics Nav, which will help to centralise information on products and supply-chain management. Mr Franicevic said it had taken considerable time to reduce the costs related to offering a delivery service online and enabling the logistics internally.
"We do not want to open the website until we are ready and sure the system works 100 per cent," he said.
Ikea has two outlets in the UAE, its flagship store on Yas Island in the capital and another in Dubai Festival City. A further store is planned for Dubai Marina in 2013.