12,000 visitors on a single day: How DSF’s outdoor pop-up Market Outside the Box has evolved

January 24, 2023 | By Rupkatha B

Ten years ago, the Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE), the organiser of the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF), launched a quirky outdoor market and called it Market Outside the Box (MOTB). A pop-up market where retailers operated out of colourful sustainable containers.

Over the years, MOTB has become a vibrant, fun and creative retail environment that offers a great platform for young and talented home-grown entrepreneurs to showcase their brands while rubbing shoulders with global names.

Alongside shopping the atmosphere at MOTB is further enlivened by food trucks offering gastronomic delight, coupled with music, yoga and fitness, drama, dance and poetry sessions to entertain the whole family.

“Our footfall kept increasing as the event grew with new and more vendors, Instagrammable spaces and an expanding entertainment programme. In fact, our record footfall so far is around 12,000 on a single day,” shared Ahmed Al Khaja, CEO, DFRE.

“It was around 10 years ago when DFRE came up with the concept. The thinking was, ‘Why don’t we do some pop-up markets that would create the feel of Covent Garden in London?’ It was something that could help the SMEs here to get the chance to have a physical retail store and at the same time give people this great new way to shop, eat and be entertained,” he added.

Until then outdoor pop-up events were not very popular and mainly took place in hotels or exhibition centres. So, in many ways MOTB that initially took place at Burj Park is a gamechanger and gained a lot of popularity.

Now in its 10th edition Etisalat MOTB is taking place from January 19 for 11 days in a new location, the Dubai Design District (d3) which has been transformed into an edgy New York themed marketplace with DJs, designer brands, fashion, food and live shows.

Talking about the role of Etisalat MOTB in supporting local entrepreneurs, Al Khaja said, “Pop-up stores like those central to the Etisalat MOTB concept have become a bell-weather for retailers to test the market in real-time and help make decisions about when to venture into the world of physical stores or a permanent space. They enable online-only vendors to dip their toes into market life and plug customer feedback directly into their business models, allowing them to tweak product lines or pricing to suit shoppers’ demands.”

MOTB follows strict criteria on the selection process prioritising retail and F&B businesses without physical stores to give them the chance to display their products and build a connect with consumers.

“There are many stories of people who have used Etisalat MOTB as a launchpad over the past 10 editions,” Al Khaja recollected. “From a working mother with a jewellery line to a small food business just starting out that now has multiple physical branches in the UAE. Etisalat MOTB has provided a vital opportunity for these entrepreneurs to really understand a customer’s wants and needs, giving them the chance to engage with their client base, as well as getting marketing exposure that young businesses wouldn’t otherwise have access to. As a government entity committed to supporting the growth of SMEs and homegrown brands, we have developed Etisalat MOTB as a platform to provide that support to them.”




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