DUBAI // Thousands of Eid al Adha shoppers thronged the malls this week, delighting retailers but frustrating many who were forced to navigate overwhelmed car parks and stores.
Some shopkeepers reported they had doubled sales over last year during the three-day holiday. But the big-spending crowds proved to be a double-edged sword, as roads around the malls became gridlocked, and people abandoned their cars on the side of the road.
Retailers reported chaotic scenes on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings as huge numbers of consumers jostled through the packed shopping lanes. The crowds had begun to disperse by yesterday.
Kim Quick, a 47-year-old Dubai resident, chose to stay close to home during the holiday and shop between trips to the beach. Unable to find a parking space at Dubai Mall on Wednesday, she was forced to park at a different shopping centre and return on foot.
"It seemed like the entire emirate was out shopping," she said. "I had to park at Souq al Bahar and walk the rest of the way."
Her daughter Rosy, 10, was buying winter outfits to take home to England for Christmas, and was overwhelmed by the number of people around.
"It was just that one evening we decided to head to a mall," she said. "On our way in, it seemed like the bridge would collapse with the weight of all those cars."
At the perfume store Areej, the head cashier Joanne Ty, 29, said the company had recorded better sales than the previous year, but a large proportion of people turned out to window-shop and sample rather than buy.
"Sales doubled this year compared with last," she said.
"Actually, the trend now is that two weeks before Eid is when all the sales happen," she said. "We were completely mad dealing with customers, but there were no sales."
Nevertheless, the tradition of purchasing gold during festivals, coupled with a slight dip in gold markets, sparked a buying frenzy as shoppers swarmed gold shops.
Chandu Siroya, the director of the Siroya Jewellers store at the Dubai Gold Souq, said turnout this Eid has been better than last year's.
"Generally, people tend to buy gold at this time," he said. "Gold prices have reduced in the last two days which has helped boost sales as well."
The throngs were almost overwhelming in some places. Mehjabeen Hussain, 55, was jewellery shopping at the Dubai Mall on the first day of Eid and found it so crowded that people were bumping into each other. Still, she got what she was after.
"I had my sights set on a pair of earrings for some time now and was waiting for the prices to drop," she said.
Movie openings, especially Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, added to mall traffic as well.
The story was somewhat different at Abu Dhabi's Marina Mall. The centre was packed on Tuesday and Wednesday night with people more interested in looking than buying, said Carmela Gharid, 47, who works at Plug-Ins Electronics.
"We had around 200 people in the store all night, many more than usual, but I did not sell many laptops," she said.
She attributed the situation to people doing their major shopping in the weeks before Eid, which she said did not stop them from coming to the mall to hang out.
* The National