In the last week we have all become a lot more aware of how much we spend, thanks to the introduction of VAT. The rise of e-commerce in a market which has been traditionally slow to adopt the global trend comes at a serendipitous time, coinciding with this growing awareness of how and where we spend our money.
Last month saw Souq.com partnering with Amazon US to offer more than one million products from the American website, delivered to customers' doors. The delivery firm Aramex already has a burgeoning database of customers using its Shop and Ship service, where goods can be ordered from almost anywhere in the world, although it remains to be seen how it will fare with VAT to be added to parcels ordered to the UAE. They have been joined by the likes of Noon.com, Namshi and dozens of UAE-based department stores, grocery stores and retailers, who now offer a home delivery service, bringing a better offering to our doorsteps. Greater availability and choice means a better deal for customers. Being able to shop online in the current climate of belt-tightening means we can browse all the options from the comfort of our homes before making our purchases and have a wider variety of goods to choose from. In this, we have been somewhat slow to catch up with the rest of the world, where e-commerce has long outstripped bricks-and-mortar sales, where footfall globally has been in decline. In the US, three-quarters of consumers already do their Christmas shopping online; meanwhile in the UK, Amazon UK made more than Dh45 billion in 2016, more than double its sales in 2010.
This is good news for both consumers and retailers. From a consumer perspective, more choice means cheaper products delivered faster, as retailers compete for a slice of the market. That will have a knock-on effect with mall operators offering rent reductions to traders to stay competitive and incentives such as franchise deals and online retail platforms. Coupled with the kind of discounts available in this month's Dubai Shopping Festival and the biannual Gitex, the UAE's retail offering is probably the best it has ever been. We don't yet know how VAT will impact our budgets but there will certainly be more options as to where we decide to spend our savings.