Revealed: Majid Al Futtaim launches inaugural ‘State of the UAE Retail Economy’ report

RetailME Bureau

UAE-based Majid Al Futtaim launched the first in a series of quarterly updates uncovering key data, trends and insights into consumers’ behaviour patterns, spending habits and sentiment in the UAE. The report series – State of the UAE Retail Economy – tracks the progress of the retail economy, with the first edition revealing optimism that retail in the emirates will recover strongly in 2021.

Despite the challenges of the global pandemic, the report demonstrates that consumer business in the UAE has proved resilient, dropping by 12% compared to the 22% decline seen by the wider economy. It also highlights the developing role played by e-commerce in retail’s response to COVID-19. The data, which combines sales transactions and footfall in malls, shows that in the UAE, e-commerce has increased to double its 2019 level, and by February 2021, e-commerce spend had increased by 30% year-on-year. It is estimated that around a quarter of the country’s electronic sales, between 7% and 9% of fashion purchases, and up to 8% of grocery sales now happen online.

The report indicates clear signs of optimism returning to the local consumer market, and the UAE is predicted to have the fastest growth within the GCC this year. Despite the lingering effects of the pandemic, the report highlights that UAE residents are gaining confidence when it comes to spending. Majid Al Futtaim’s data reports an increase of 17% in consumer spending from February to March 2021, and retail sales in malls showed an increase of 10% year-on-year in March 2021.

Alain Bejjani, Chief Executive Officer at Majid Al Futtaim – Holding, said: “In 2020, we experienced a rapid shift from established consumer patterns to the need for emerging innovation, like e-commerce, to meet customers’ changing needs. The report findings come at a time when the nation’s dedicated vaccination program is offering a real sense of hope and confidence, following an undeniably tough year for everyone. Today, we see a renewed sense of optimism that retail in the UAE will effectively recover, and our inaugural State of the UAE Retail Economy report underlines this. With comprehensive data driven insights, our report findings will empower our stakeholders to make clearly informed business or policy-related decisions which, over time, will contribute to the wider UAE economy. I am confident that the promising signs we’ve seen from the first few months of 2021 will continue to drive a positive outlook on economic recovery as we continue to adapt to a post-COVID-19 world.”

The welcome return of tourism in the UAE has also shown promise, with tourist spending in Q1 2021 seeing a notable increase in the categories of fashion & accessories (91%), watches & jewellery (207%) and electronics (90%) compared to Q1 2019. The report adds that digitisation, careful spending, and sustainability and health play a key role in consumer behaviours and buying patterns. Digital shopping has become established alongside physical shops, creating the arrival of the ‘phygital’ age, whilst shifting attitudes of millennials and Gen Xers means these groups are choosing to spend their money wisely, saving on everyday essentials to free up cash to make more emotional purchases. The data also suggests that sustainability is a focus for consumers in the UAE, with more than two thirds (66%) showing concern for the environment and half now likely to buy products that are kinder to the planet.