The Changing Behaviour Series: Shopping In The UAE

Summer season in the UAE usually sees more people spending time indoors due to the intense heat. Following Ramadan the shopping malls across the emirates are normally thronged with people looking for deals in the Summer Sales that take place across the country.

This year, however, the shopping malls will be different. Studying consumer behavior during this time, blis – a location-powered advertising and analytics partner has initiated ‘The changing behaviour series’ where it examined the trends in visitors to shopping malls in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. While the malls are welcoming much less visitors through their doors, the easing of restrictions is facilitating an upward trend overall.

Taking a week on week view there’s been an increase in foot traffic across all four malls in Dubai, with Ibn Battuta Mall experiencing 35% growth. Following the news that residents no longer needed a permit to leave the home on 23rd April foot traffic to all malls grew considerably, with Deira City Centre seeing a spike in visitors (91% increase week on week).

Malls in Abu Dhabi observed similar patterns of increased foot traffic with the Wahada Mall witnessing a 42% increase, following several weeks of decline. Restrictions in the Emirate are beginning to ease this week with malls permitted to hold 40% of store capacity.

Taking a closer look at the data, blis has seen a shift in consumer behaviour when visiting the main malls in each city.

In Dubai the Mall of the Emirates has just over half of the market share when compared with its competitors, growing from 38% at the beginning of February, while the Dubai Mall’s share has declined from 39% to 26%. Both premises are heavily impacted by the lack of tourists who normally crowd the halls but with restrictions on leisure activities lifted, the Mall of the Emirates has used the opportunity to safely entice visitors back to the indoor ski slopes, restaurants and cinemas, with enhanced safety measures in place.

Shopping malls in Abu Dhabi have a more evenly distributed share of the market. The Marina Mall has seen the biggest shift in share, growing from 15% in February to 22% in May. YAS Mall conversely, witnessed a drop from 36% to 30% over the same time period.

With consumers yet to return to full capacity, each mall has the opportunity to grow market share by demonstrating the safety measures they are putting in place. Early foot traffic indicators are pointing to the emergence of a more frugal consumer mindset. As activity ramps back up, the desire to gravitate towards trusted retailers and brands may be countered with price sensitivity. This is something marketers should closely monitor, while doubling down on brand equity to outweigh cost considerations and delay the need for discounting.