Virgin Megastore sees 30% spike in UAE sales

Arab Spring unrest in other traditional shopping markets results in 'wild' summer for retail giant
The retail entertainment giant opened its latest store in Dubai Mall on Wednesday
By Shane McGinley
Wed 14 Sep 2011 04:16 PM

Virgin Megastores saw a 30 percent spike in UAE sales this summer as more Gulf shoppers flocked to the emirates, as a result of the Arab Spring unrest in other traditional shopping markets.

On Wednesday, the retail entertainment giant opened its latest store in Dubai Mall, its fourteenth in the Middle East.

"[Retail sales] are back up against last year. We are up 30 percent in the UAE," Nisreen Shocair, president of Virgin Megastore Middle East said at the launch.

With the UAE remaining immune from the impact of the Arab Spring uprisings, combined with the early Ramadan season, Shocair said the country saw a rise in Gulf shoppers this summer.

A wave of public protests and demonstrations spread across the Middle East and North Africa region this year, impacting countries such as Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Oman and Bahrain.

"It is very simple, with the political situation in Egypt everyone came here and that made sure we had a fantastic summer. It was wild. We have never seen a summer like this," she said.

"As Ramadan pushes into the summer we are going to see that trend continue as basically people are not leaving and that it good for us retail wise.

There used to be a three month lull but we don't have that anymore."

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With the opening of the new 2,400 sqm store in Dubai Mall, Shocair believes there is currently sufficient presence in the Dubai market but is looking to Abu Dhabi for further UAE growth.

"Abu Dhabi, they are itching for another store. We are waiting to see what the new developments bring."

In Egypt, the brand will open a second store in December and is currently in talks for two more large developments.

Shocair also sees Qatar as another focus for development: "Qatar is very important to us as the population grows and people move there for the World Cup and we see big shifts in the economy and we want to be ready."

Music and record stores in Europe and US have been suffering, with rival HMV closing 60 stores in the UK in 2010.

But Virgin Megastore said it had decided to reverse the trend in the Middle East and resurrect its CD collection and it had proved an unexpected success.

"We expanded [the CD section] and business went up 15 percent. Obviously there is a demand still there," said Shocair.

In order to promote the brand, Virgin Megastore Fest'11 was launched on Sept 15 and will see more than 25 local music acts playing in-store until Oct 7.

Shocair added it also plans to launch a digital download platform in the near future and a loyalty programme in the fourth quarter.

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