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Pieces are coming together in Dubai's retail sector recovery

In the relatively short history of our nation, the UAE has proved its mettle time and again. In recent months, the UAE not only managed to safely reopen its borders but implemented one of the world's fastest vaccination drives, and became the first Arab country to reach Mars.

And launch ambitious strategies such as the Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan and Operation 300Bn to spur local industry. This Ramadan, it is a time for all of us to reflect on these recent achievements as well as our future trajectory. We are reminded as the UAE business community that we must stay focused on the path ahead, inspired by opportunity rather than dissuaded by recent challenges.

In the retail sector, COVID-19 did initially send shock waves. Landlords and retailers alike were impacted by fluctuations in consumer footfall. This time last year, changes in labor requirements, rescheduled brand campaigns, and phased reopenings of stores in the UAE took a great deal of agility and industry-wide coordination. Annual resident-based retail spending in the UAE is estimated to have declined by Dh8.2 billion in 2020.

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Chart a comeback

Nevertheless, UAE retailers are now better prepared to navigate the roadblocks posed by COVID-19. More information, resources and best practices are in place to minimize disruptions. Retailers have been able to recalibrate their offerings to be more omnichannel, using digital platforms to help retain and even grow their customer base.

New partnerships, councils, and funds have been created to support those most impacted. We are also continuing to benefit from the UAE government’s investments in public education regarding COVID-19 and wide-scale testing.

The agility of the sector is evident in Dubai Chamber’s latest forecast that UAE retail sales are expected to reach $58 billion by the end of 2021, up approximately 13 per cent year-on-year. A strong vaccination programme coupled with mega-events like Expo Dubai will no doubt spark a resurgence in 2021 and leading into next year.

Size is relative

As retailers, we can take a page from the Emirates' Mars Mission team's playbook. You don’t have to be a large company — or country — to make a big impact. By being determined, patient, and true to one’s values, breakthroughs can be achieved. We must continue to evolve and adapt, but always with a long-term inspiration in mind.

If we do that, there is no limit to future potential...