The World Retail Congress (WRC) begins on Tuesday in Dubai amid weak consumer demand, caused by a strong dollar and job concerns. Brick-and-mortar retail has also suffered as ecommerce begins to grow in popularity across the region.
The 11th edition of the event, being held at the Madinat Jumeirah from April 4 to April 8 under the patronage of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, will see over 1,500 delegates in attendance.
With opening remarks from Sultan Al Mansouri, the UAE’s Minister of Economy, and Majid Saif Al Ghurair, chairman of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry, attendees are expected to be addressed over the course of the four day event by industry leaders such as Jo Malone, founder of Jo Malone, Ravi Thakran, group president of LVMH for South & South East Asia and Middle East, and Robert Welanetz, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim Properties.
Developers in the UAE are currently hoping to capitalise on the growing number of visitors to the country in the run up to Expo 2020.
Dubai hopes to attract 20 million tourists that year, an increase of around five million in the next three years.
Retailers are currently focusing on delivering unique experiences to differentiate their product, whilst utilising insight into consumer behaviours and attitudes to stay agile and retain customers.
A government emphasis on the tourism sector, competitive deals, and tax-free salaries spurred a decade-long boom in the retail sector in Dubai.
However, in an Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB) economic report released at the end of 2016, Monica Malek, Chief Economist at ADCB, said, “The rise in inflation over our forecast horizon should continue to contribute to the soft consumer-spending backdrop. Wider consumer sentiment is expected to remain weak due to job uncertainties.”
Hamad Bu Amim, president and CEO, Dubai Chamber, said in a statement: “After the tremendous success of the 10th World Retail Congress in Dubai, the chamber is very pleased to host the 11th edition here again. This year’s theme is very topical and reflects the changes in the retail sector, especially the growing trend of ecommerce. More so, Dubai’s retail market is forecasted to surpass $52 billion in sales by 2020 with average annual growth of more than 8 per cent.”