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DUBAI: From a few streets to engaging almost the entire city, the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) has come a long way. But the DSF’s 27th edition, which runs till January 30, 2022, has one other important aim – helping the retail sector attract back the customers locked away after the pandemic.

Supported by pent up consumer demand and the Expo 2020 Dubai, retail sector was expected to rebound and grow in 2021.

An earlier projection by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry projected retail sales in the UAE were to rebound and increase by 13% to reach $58 billion by the end of 2021.

While the actual numbers would soon be available, many believe that the pandemic would shift shopping trends online faster than ever before. The UAE currently leads the Middle East and North Africa region in terms of household spending on e-commerce at $2,554 per household, which is twice the value of the global average of $1,156, and four times the value of the average in the MENA region ($629), according to an analysis published by the chamber earlier this year.

But organisers of the Dubai Shopping Festival are looking to compete. The DSF is also affectionately referred to as the emirate’s ‘crown jewel’ of festivals, and is one of the most popular events of the region. Its aim is to push forward with Dubai’s retail sector rebound.

Muna alfalasi, director festival planning at Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE), said the focus has been on the ‘experience’ aspect of shopping.

“I remember the DSF when I used to be at the university – when it started at the Creek side and used to be only one part of the city,” Muna told Business Recorder. “Now, you see it across the city, and we cover all the important districts.

The official said the focus has moved closely to the ‘experience’ aspect of shopping.

“Shopping has been the primary focus, but we have added a lot of different experiences to the festival.

“You can go to the beach opposite the JBR, you get to see the drone show, and the DSF markets. There are a lot of different food trends, and a lot of SMEs are participating. Virtual and the AR experiences have also been added.”

With the UAE’s push at vaccination, organisers feel the safety element has been looked after. “We are taking all the precautions, not only when it comes to the retail and shopping aspects, but also when it comes to our events.”

Issam Kazim, chief executive officer of Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DCTCM), told Business Recorder in an earlier interview that the DSF is an “inclusive celebration”, an opportunity for tourists to come back to the city.

Hence, the festival also helps with the leadership’s aim to help with Dubai’s repeat visitors.

“Close to 25% of Dubai’s visitors are repeat visits – a significant number since it is within a period of 12 months, and not over 2 years which is largely the case,” said Kazim.

“The DSF goes beyond sales and discounts – its also the experience of shopping.”

What to expect at the DSF

The annual DSF – running December 15 to January 30 – includes concerts, outdoor markets, pop-up dining, shopping discounts, raffles and cash prizes.

The opening ceremony featured Augmented Reality (AR) stage integrations, a Burj Khalifa light show, dancing fountains and highlighted performances from the various artists. A total of around Dh30 million will be given away in winnings as well this DSF.

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