Luxury brand retailers on treasuring the UAE

Glistening in the vitrine of Boucheron’s flagship boutique in Mall of the Emirates, a one-of–a-kind pendant boasting a Falcon in white gold, encrusted with 113 round Sapphires totaling 4,74 carats, and 122 round diamonds totaling 2,59 carats, designed especially for the UAE.

The French jeweller is not alone in adding a UAE-centric piece to its collection, commemorating the Gulf state’s heritage and rewarding its ardent luxury consumers.

Boucheron joins the likes of Gucci and Fabergé adorning its goods with the red, white, green and black tones or Emirati nuances to create unique pieces, giving tribute to this luxury goods powerhouse which this month celebrated 43 years since the unification of its seven emirates and founding of the country in 1971.

This is unsurprising, granted that the UAE alone accounts for the largest share of the Middle East’s US$8.3 billion (€6.7billion) personal luxury goods market, according to management consultancy, Bain and Company.

London-based firm Ledbury Research identifies the UAE as a global luxury hotspot, ranking in after fellow-Gulf neighbour, Qatar as the fastest growing luxury market in the world.

Dubai continues to ascertain itself in the luxury sphere, raking in over a third of the region’s personal luxury goods spend in Bain and Company’s calculations.

The luxury fashion houses of France and Italy have been flocking here since the mid-nineties, proliferated by Emaar’s opening of mega-mall concept The Dubai Mall in 2009, which last year accounted for over 50% of the luxury goods sold in Dubai.

Today, the emirate is irrefutably the entry point for luxury fashion brands venturing over to the region. French shoe specialist, Christian Louboutin, opened his first men’s boutique in Majid-Al-Futtaim’s Mall of the Emirates last month, serving as a concept debut for the Middle East.

All this talk of Dubai is not to underplay the power of big sister emirate, Abu Dhabi. Management consultancy firm A.T.Kearney rank the UAE fourth globally in terms of retail investment, underpinned by the emirates’ very own capital city playing retail supply catch-up to Dubai.

The opening of high-end ‘The Galleria’ mall on Al Marayah Island last year generated a distinct destination for luxury retail, motivating the likes of Alexander McQueen, Céline, Mulberry, Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga to debut in the emirate for the first time.

The capital also welcomed their first super-regional mall, Yas Mall, this month, which seeks to “place Abu Dhabi on the global stage of retail destinations,” according to developer, Aldar Properties.

Notable retail developments in its healthy pipeline also include ‘The District’, the retail hub with a dedicated luxury arena serving upcoming cultural hotspot, Saadiyat Island. The mixed-use project, set to host a Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim museum and a Louvre, is to put Abu Dhabi on the cultural map. Coupled with its retail component, it will help diversify the capital’s economy and boost non-oil growth, which peaked at just under 10% last year, according to figures from Abu Dhabi Statistics Centre.

A strong domestic purchasing power and burgeoning economic growth has supported the capital city to gain momentum, rightfully earning its title as a market of prestigious firsts through careful thought-out positioning. High-end British retailer, House of Fraser, selected Abu Dhabi to inaugurate their first international store, opening in Abu Dhabi’s World Trade Centre last year, shortly followed by an impressive second Abu Dhabi store, located in the new Yas Mall.

US department store giant, Macy’s, followed suite earlier this month as it identified Abu Dhabi’s Al Maryah Central as the soon-to-be-home to their first store outside of the US come 2018. “As a spectacular new world-class shopping destination, Al Maryah Central provides an outstanding opportunity to introduce Macy’s to customers who live and work in the booming UAE market, as well as to visitors who come from around the world for events, business and holidays,” said Terry Lundgren, Macy’s, Inc. chairman and chief executive officer.

The department store opens alongside the first Bloomingdales’ in the emirate, both in partnership with luxury goods partner, Al Tayer, who also count British high-end retailer Harvey Nichols in their UAE portfolio.

The dual combination of Dubai’s flourishing luxury market and Abu Dhabi’s economic backbone has escalated the UAE in the eyes of brand retailing.

“Essentially, the [luxury] brands show a strong commitment to the market rather than chasing quick returns and superficial experience” says Patrick Chalhoub, the chief executive of Chalhoub Group, a leading luxury goods retailer.

Samiha Alloub