Apple stores in UAE among busiest worldwide, global retail chief says

The iPhone maker is looking for opportunities around the world to add more retail outlets, Deirdre O’Brien says

The Apple Store in the Galleria Mall on Abu Dhabi’s Al Maryah Island. Khushnum Bhandari / The National
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Apple Stores in the UAE are among the company’s busiest in the world, the iPhone manufacturer has said.

The brand has been able to build "really strong" relationships with the local community, Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s senior vice president for retail, told The National.

The retail outlets, which have been in operation for eight years, have been a key venue for the company’s consumer-oriented strategy, she said.

Ms O’Brien, an Apple veteran of more than 30 years, would not discuss any plans for additional store openings in the UAE or elsewhere, but said that the Cupertino-based company is “always looking for opportunities all around the world”.

She said the four Apple Stores in the UAE have “strong connections with our customers.”

“We never comment on our plans for the future, but what I will tell you is that we are very thrilled with the four stores we have here,” she said.

Apple Stores in the UAE typically receive a lot of customers during iPhone launches, with a good number of them coming from other countries, keen to be among the first to buy the company’s new flagships.

The iPhone 15 launch on September 22 was one of the biggest in the country.

“The images that I saw of the lines here in the UAE and the excitement about the products was just phenomenal,” said Ms O’Brien, who was in China on the launch date.

One of the key factors that make Apple Stores in the UAE stand out is that more than 50 nationalities are represented and nearly 70 languages are spoken by its retail teams across its four outlets, she said.

That makes the UAE Apple Store network one of the biggest representations worldwide, reflecting the Emirates' stature as a melting pot of nationalities and diversity, she added.

“Without a doubt, this is absolutely one of the truly broad representations of so many different languages and cultures.”

From its first outlets that opened in the US states of Virginia and California in 2001, Apple today has a network of 526 outlets across 26 countries and territories, according to the company's website.

Apple already has four stores in the UAE. The first outlets in Abu Dhabi’s Yas Mall and Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates opened simultaneously in 2015.

This was followed by another at The Dubai Mall in 2017, which features a Solar Wings balcony that is motorised and offers a view of the Dubai Fountain.

The fourth store, in the Galleria Mall on Abu Dhabi’s Al Maryah Island, was opened in 2022 and features a water-themed design, with flowing water alongside the entrance steps, from both the waterfront and the mall, which are firsts for an Apple Store.

The store’s theme pays homage to the culture and history of the UAE capital and is “one of our most beautiful stores”, Ms O’Brien said.

Apple’s physical presence also remains key to its retail strategy, despite the popularity of online shopping channels, she said.

It is difficult to predict advancements in online shopping and how it will influence or create a shift in consumer behaviour, Ms O’Brien said.

“More customers are shopping online, and we certainly do see that. We've really focused on creating our Apple retail experience that is both digital and physical.”

Updated: September 30, 2023, 5:49 AM