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A Different Dubai: shopping fatigue could lead to innovation

A Different Dubai: shopping fatigue could lead to innovation

Now that the world is watching, what can Dubai do to stay in the spotlight? Precious de Leon mulls over the possibilities, looking at how Abu Dhabi is shaping up.

February 5, 2012 5:01 by

The headline said “Retailers run hot and cold on Dubai Shopping Festival”. And who’s not going to want to click on this story that ran on The National on Sunday?

But as you read the story, you’ll realise that, the Landmark Group have become the poster child for companies who’ve received lukewarm results during DSF. Everyone else that’s quoted in the article seemed to register great revenues during the festival (DSF), including tech brands, hoteliers and luxury brands distributors.

Even Mohi-Din BinHendi, president of BinHendi Enterprises, a luxury and F&B company, was expectedly diplomatic and loyal in his response: “Everything you do cannot benefit everybody, but if it benefits Dubai, it benefits me.” Surprise, Surprise.

So maybe the headline may have been overselling the story just a tad. But one can’t help explore the idea that there’s a hint of truth to it.

How much can Dubai rely on the shopping prowess of its tourist foot traffic? How long will the mystic of retail in Dubai last?

This year, it was decided that the DSF be moved earlier from January 20 to January 5—on the back of the New Year and Eid seasons. Costumers were mostly from tourists still on their holidays – mostly coming from Europe and the rest of the GCC.

But now that it’s got the world watching—with Hollywood knocking at its door and the international community recoginising it as a megacity—how can Dubai keep the world’s attention?

Sure a lot of people can validly argue why question something that works, especially after reports that Dubai FDI has “brought AED3.44 billion in capital and 77 companies to Dubai in 2011, whose collective turnover was AED16.57 billion.”

But it hardly seems sustainable to continue solely as the city of shopping or yesteryear’s superfluous adjectives. Words like ‘diversification’ of portfolio and ‘true innovation’ may sound like good punchlines to an article like this but that’s probably because that’s really what the city needs.

Looking southward toward Abu Dhabi and its seemingly concerted effort to create an array of unrelated yet relevant projects within the city’s grid, has been catching our eye lately.

While it hasn’t been smooth sailing for the UAE capital lately, it’s undeniable that they are creating a diversified portfolio of activities for a global audience. This runs the gamut of museums that have yet to stay on construction schedule and weekend concert getaways down to almost incessant announcements of greener urban planning projects.

The most recent divergent project is the announcement of Abu Dhabi hosting the fourth Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which has its headquarters in Switzerland. The centre would almost undoubtedly pin the capital as a pivotal member in international sports jurisprudence.

Dubai’s more than usual cautious approach of going for the tried and tested activities (DSF, exhibitions, etc) is understandable, given certain sectors within the city are still trying to pull themselves up from the 2008 economic bust—the latest news of which sees the government pull out of Dubai Group’s $10-billion debt talks. So changing directions and looking for a longer-term identity in the global scene isn’t going to be so simple.

But in doing so, it could lead to Dubai’s second wind, a more stable and sustainable model for longer-term growth. After all, just because people continue to window shop, doesn’t mean they’ll still end up buying something. Just saying.

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