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From truffles to watches, UAE luxury retail surges

From truffles to watches, UAE luxury retail surges

Emirati customers, tourists lead return to luxury shops; Chocolate truffle worth $272 on the market; Auction houses weigh Dubai vs Doha for art sales.

February 10, 2011 1:11 by

“Emiratis are able to spend more again. The expatriates who have remained here have secured their jobs to a certain extent so they can spend more now,” said Mahdi Mattar, head of research and chief economist at Abu Dhabi-based CAPM Investment.

“It’s a reduction in the saving rate and a pick-up in spending in the UAE, both locals and expats. But the main factor is the tourists. We have seen a pick-up in arrivals to Dubai’s airports and in hotel occupancy rates.”

Auction house Sotheby’s said it plans to increase its commitment to the region, citing a potential for lucrative high-end art sales with interest from members of prominent families who want to attend auctions closer to home.

“The royal sheikhas take a very keen interest. They play a very important role in the cultural and artistic development especially at the high-end. They are very active on the buying scene,” said Roxane Zand, Sotheby’s director of the Middle East Department.

Sotheby’s had already held two art sales in the Gulf in 2009 and 2010, both in Qatar.

“Sotheby’s strategy has been more to operate from our global centres: New York, London or Paris,” she said. “But the 2010 sale in Doha was a very successful sale. We were expecting $4 million, but we actually made $5.2 million.”

Rival auction house Christie’s has already gained a foothold in Dubai.

“Dubai is one of Christie’s 10 international sale centres and has been vital for our development in the region,” Isabelle de la Bruyere, Christie’s Middle East director, said.

“It will be incredibly interesting to see what the Guggenheim and Louvre do in Abu Dhabi,” said Guy Vesey, regional director of Bonhams Middle East. “But it might be some time before they are seen as true capitals in the art market.”

($1=3.672 UAE Dirham) (Reporting by Martina Fuchs; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Angus MacSwan)

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