The business of retail in Dubai

A guide to retail business and shops in Dubai

There’s no better place in the region to embark on some retail therapy than in Dubai

Home to the world’s biggest mall, traditional souks, two major shopping festivals, and the highest number of food and beverage outlets per capita in the world, Dubai is a shopper’s paradise.

After London, Dubai is rated by international brands as the second most important retail opportunity. Shoppers will find just about anything their hearts desire – from high-end European labels such as Hermès or Dolce & Gabbana to mainstream brands such as Gap and H&M, and local artisanal crafts from Dubai’s old souks.

Shopping for many tourists and residents begins at Dubai Mall, a landmark destination with more than 1,200 stores and restaurants, dancing water fountains, an ice-skating rink, aquarium and 22-screen cinema.

Dubai Mall

There are close to 100 malls in the city, each with its own character and offerings, and there are even more on the way, including another “world’s biggest”.

Since shopping in Dubai is essential to the economy, the emirate caters incredibly well to those who want to spend big. There are two major events in the retail sector that draw in tourists from across the world. Dubai Shopping Festival, which runs from January to February, is a monster sale with outlandish promotions where raffle prizes can include luxury cars or kilos of gold, to a backdrop of street fairs, fireworks and cultural activities. About 30 per cent of annual retail sales are made during this DSF.

The festival is so popular that 18 years ago, Dubai began a summer equivalent – Dubai Summer Surprises, held from June to August. Given the heat, much of the activities take place indoors, attracting famous singers and actors to help promote the deals.

While most of the deals are to be found during these two major festivals, Dubai also hosts GITEX Shopper (below), a bi-annual event of technology and gadget promotions for the thousands who descend on the Dubai World Trade Centre keen to get the deals.

GITEX Shopper

The tech craze is set to spiral further once Apple opens its highly anticipated store in Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates soon. Occupying a space of 5,000 square metres, it is set to be the world’s largest Apple store.

Mall of the Emirates

But it is not just the malls that dominate the retail sector. Over the past year or so, Dubai has shifted from the grandeur of malls to more unique, boutique-style locations focusing on local talent and brands.

BoxPark in Jumeirah (below) and The Walk and The Beach mall at Jumeirah Beach Residence have proven very popular with residents, while the Night Souk on Deira Islands (scheduled for completion in 2017), will feature boutique stores selling wares by local and regional designers.


For a more traditional shopping experience, there’s the Spice Souk the Gold Souk, and a fish market in Old Dubai.

It is here in Deira and Bur Dubai that one senses the true culture of the port city, home to bustling trade for decades. It is in these parts that the city began and where sellers and buyers continue to negotiate and haggle over prices. The fish market has undergone a AED269 million expansion and refurbishment, which will be unveiled this year and re-enforce the essence of trade in this part of town.

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