Dubai // Bargain hunters flocked to malls yesterday as shops slashed their prices to mark the start of the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF). Retailers, who are offering discounts of up to 75 per cent, will be hoping that the annual festival brings a timely sales boost, but after a lean 2009 some shoppers may be cautious about splashing out.
However, whether the shoppers were merely window shopping or planning to make purchases, the Mall of the Emirates saw a considerable increase in customer traffic yesterday, according to Leo Manuel, a sales assistant at a kiosk selling watches. "It is definitely busier than normal," he said. "Lots of people come just for the sales. It is a very important time for the shops, particularly after a difficult period."
Although some shops have been offering western-style January sales in a bid to boost custom, it was clear yesterday that many shoppers had been waiting for DSF before visiting malls. Omar Chaaloui, 29, from Morocco, said the festival was a highly anticipated event and would see malls bustling again after the global recession had dented consumer confidence. "I have seen sales of up to 75 per cent off. There was a lot of expectation building up to DSF and I think shops will see the benefits of this."
Traditionally, DSF has been a tourist draw and yesterday the malls welcomed visitors from the Middle East and beyond. Dean Deranies, 20, from Jordan, who attends DSF every year with her friends, said it was not just the bargains but the whole festival experience that made DSF enjoyable. "I've seen a lot of amazing offers. It is a very exciting event." Some visitors, however, were not so enthusiastic. Elahe Aramesh, 33, from Iran, said DSF had lost some of its appeal because it was now competing with cheaper retail prices in Europe and a general tightening of the purse strings among consumers.
"People expect Dubai prices to be very low but many people, including me, now prefer to shop in Europe. Many people have faced financial difficulties recently and have less disposable income so it follows that they will spend less." The festival was officially opened yesterday evening with a firework display over the Creek. In addition to bargain hunting, the festival features a programme of entertainment events including music shows funfairs and heritage exhibitions. It ends on February 28.