This year's 'Summer Surprise' beat the heat

Dubai festival may set attendance record with shoppers spending an estimated Dh3.2bn, or 25% more than during the 2007 promotion.
The number of visitors to the summer festival jumped by about 10 per cent, up from last year's count of two million people.
The number of visitors to the summer festival jumped by about 10 per cent, up from last year's count of two million people.

DUBAI // High inflation and blood-boiling temperatures have not deterred shoppers from opening their wallets, say officials at the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF), where sales may have broken records during this year's summer leg of the event. Dubai runs two festivals; the DSF during the cooler winter months from January to February, and the Dubai Summer Surprise (DSS) from July to August. In previous years both events were administered directly by the emirate's Economic Department, but their growth prompted the Government to establish a stand-alone autonomous office last year, the DSF, to run the events.

Consumer spending at this year's summer festival, which ends today, was an estimated 25 per cent more than the Dh3.2 billion (US$871 million) spent by shoppers last year, officials said. The number of visitors also jumped by about 10 per cent, up from last year's count of two million people. "There were really high expectations this year since it was the first season we organised the festival since we were converted to a Government body, and I think we exceeded people's expectations," said Laila Suhail, the chief executive of the summer event. "We are really proud because we are the only Government body all over the world that is organising such a festival."

The first festival was created by a team of four people in 1996 under the umbrella of Dubai's Economic Department. It grossed Dh2.15bn and hosted some 1.6 million visitors. Last year's event had a staff of 45 people and was attended by 3.5 million visitors who spent more than Dh10.2bn. The summer version was launched in 1998, when it attracted more than 600,000 visitors who spent Dh850m. The total budget allocated this year, for everything from the marketing campaign to event management, was Dh85m, said Ms Suhail. "We have been so successful all of these years in our efforts to convert the summer season into a shopping season here in Dubai," she said.

Sponsors participating in this year's event included 16 major corporations such as Etisalat, Emirates airline, Emarat petrol stations, Dubai Refreshments Company, Dubai World Trade Centre and Dubai Gold and Jewellery Group. Most of the major shopping centres and retail property groups were also involved, including Majid Al Futtaim (MAF) Shopping Malls, Dubai Shopping Malls Group, Wafi, Burjuman, Al Futtaim Group and Emaar Malls Group, which opens the colossal Dubai Mall in October.

"The key sponsorship of the DSS by Emaar Malls Group will help us position our malls as the latest value additions to Dubai's retail sector," said Jim Badour, the chief executive of Emaar Malls Group. "By integrating shopping and entertainment, the two drivers of retail today, DSS has outlined a model of growth for malls in the region." Typically, the biggest sellers during Dubai's shopping festivals, gold and jewellery, remained strong during this year's DSS, with sales at participating outlets estimated at around Dh500m for the nine-week festival. Officials with Dubai Gold and Jewellery Group (DGJG) said this figure surpassed their expectations, particularly given rising inflation rates and market volatility in recent months.

"We really did very well," said Swapna Nair, the general manager at DGJG. "Summer tends to be a little slow but we actually did much better than expected, probably because of the slump in gold prices recently." Officials with the shopping festival are now setting their sights on next year's Dubai Shopping Festival, scheduled to begin in January. vsalama@thenational.ae

Published: August 21, 2008 04:00 AM

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