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DSF one of the best shopping festivals in the world: Paris Gallery CEO

The appetite for luxurious and top of the line products bring many a visitors from far and wide to the shores of Dubai. And with the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) offering incredible bargains on some of the most sought after niche and international brands, demand for such products especially in the perfumes, beauty and accessories categories rises drastically.

Paris Gallery – a leading luxury retailer in the Middle East and a Strategic Partner of Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE), an agency of the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) and organisers of DSF – has each year during the festival, helped meet this high demand with a range of tempting offers such as instant gifts and prizes on purchases.

In an interview with the Media Centre of DFRE, Mr. Mohammed Abdul Rahim Al Fahim, CEO of Paris Gallery Group of Companies, pointed out that valuable tourist data generated during DSF helps Paris Gallery study customer demand arising out of each country and culture. This enables the company to meet either a current need or a need that it foresees will arise in the near future, he stated. Keeping these trends in mind, Paris Gallery is able to enhance the shopping experiences at its stores, build customer loyalty and create a competitive atmosphere in the retail sector to ensure its vibrancy.

Mr. Al Fahim also highlighted that DSF has been instrumental in Dubai’s climb to becoming one of the foremost destinations of the world for shopping, leisure, food and entertainment and that new projects have led to the creation of new jobs. Furthermore, customer engagement on Paris Gallery’s social media platforms has been the highest during DSF 2015.

Commenting on the evolving trends in shopping habits, Mr. Al Fahim stated that Paris Gallery is seeing a rising interest in skincare products among male customers. Men are now splurging like never before on products that make them look and feel food. Additionally, niche perfumes are also becoming popular and Paris Gallery’s database shows that an increased number of customers are now attracted to these exclusive collections.

Mr. Al Fahim also discussed the importance of the DSF period for the success of Paris Gallery, in addition to sharing the Group’s future plans and the impact DSF has had on the overall economic development of the UAE.

Excerpts of the interview

What are the major changes and impact that the Dubai Shopping Festival has had on your organization over the past 20 years?

The Dubai Shopping Festival has evolved amazingly. And each passing year has given it the opportunity to evolve into one of the most prestigious and popular shopping festivals of the world. DSF has been instrumental in the rise of Dubai as one of the most preferred cities for tourism, shopping and leisure. Furthermore, it has helped carve a niche for itself in the minds of millions of people across the world who love to travel and explore new places. The UAE has attracted the people of the world to come and explore this beautiful nation and become one with its people.

DSF has given shopping a new meaning, where shopping is now a pleasurable and meaningful activity involving the retail sector and consumers. Furthermore, with every major sector playing a sizeable role in the festivities, it goes without saying that DSF is not only about shopping, but also about leisure, entertainment, business and other sectors. Shopping is a celebration in Dubai, and DSF draws people to this amazing city of opportunities by making offers that are hard to resist. The conception of DSF and the work that went behind it year after year is something to commend.

For Paris Gallery, being strategically associated with DSF is a mutually beneficial partnership. The festival drives sales every year, and this DSF is very special on account of the celebrations marking its 20th anniversary. As a local company, our desire is to offer our services to the world. And this is possible because of the various initiatives of the UAE government to bring the world to Dubai. It has been a marvelous journey with DSF so far, and we have no doubt that DSF will continue to outdo itself each passing year.

In relation to your annual business plans and strategy – how important is the DSF period to the success of your business?

DSF has become a major part of every business plan and strategy in the UAE. It surely is a great way for businesses to kick-start a new year and offer their customers a compelling reason to shop to their heart’s content. Retail starts on the right note, so to speak. And at the end of each year, we are looking at the beginning of the next with anticipation.

DSF brings in many tourists to shop with us, which leaves us with valuable data to process. Using this data, we understand the shifting needs of customers worldwide. It is an opportunity to study customer demand arising out of each country and culture. It enables us to meet either a current need or a need that we foresee to arise in the near future. We strategize early either through the launch of new products of existing brands or welcome new brands that we believe can cater to such needs. The data also helps foresee new trends, changing lifestyles and spending patterns or habits of customers. With this understanding, we can plan towards enhancing shopping experiences at our stores, build customer loyalty, and create a very competitive atmosphere in the retail sector so that it remains healthy and vibrant.

What special initiatives, promotions and customer engagement strategies have you implemented for the 20th anniversary edition of DSF?

Consumer expectation and demand is growing by the day, and we have to move aggressively and quickly to make sure that these expectations and demands are met. There are many channels through which a consumer can be reached, but we cannot be sure which one. And since we are targeting different segments and even sub-segments of customers, we have to use various online and offline tools such as social media, SMS, magazine ads, outdoor ads, radio, online advertisements and digital branding across all malls. And this we are doing to reach out to our customers.

All throughout 2014, we worked towards increasing customer engagement via digital channels. Our efforts have proved successful. Customer engagement on our social media platforms is the highest this DSF.

How important has DSF been to the overall economic development of UAE and promoting the Emirates around the world over the past two decades?

The UAE is now second home for millions of people who hail from different parts of the world. Twenty years of DSF has helped the economy of the UAE by attracting capital and foreign exchange. It has brought in millions of tourists by giving them a multitude of reasons to visit the country. DSF has also assisted in building and fulfilling dreams of countless number of individuals. Customers have spent billions of dirhams during these festivals over the past years, and this has affected the economy in a very positive way.

DSF has been instrumental in Dubai’s climb to becoming one of the foremost destinations of the world for shopping, leisure, food and entertainment. It has not only helped the retail sector but also other sectors like real estate and hospitality. New projects have led to the creation of new jobs. Two decades ago, there were less than 10 million visitors, and this year we are expecting 70 million. The number of hotels grew 150 percent since 1997, and the number of hotel rooms are about 85000 strong now, a 300% increase. This says it all.

If you could sum up in just one phrase what DSF means to you as an organization – what would that phrase be?

A festival that brings the world to Paris Gallery.

What are the most popular products or items that people are purchasing during DSF?

Offers are across all categories such as perfumes, skincare, cosmetics, watches, eyewear, leather goods and accessories, and there is high demand for products in all these categories. Therefore, it is difficult to point out just a few. However, tourists from countries such as China prefer high-end watches and skincare products, while those from the GCC, Russia and the rest of the world, they shop for products from most of these categories. However, we have also noticed an increase in the demand for niche perfumes.

Have you witnessed changes in the type of product and the way that people spend over the past 20 years?

Spending habits of customers have also changed over the years, and there has been a rise in spending, especially among the younger generations. As far as products are concerned, we have witnessed a major shift in the male skincare segment. We are seeing a rising interest in skincare products among male customers. Men are now splurging like never before on products that make them look good and feel good. They have no qualms about spending on high-end skincare because they now understand its benefits. Niche perfumes are also becoming popular, and our database shows that an increased number of customers are attracted to these exclusive collections.

Is there now a major shift to electronic payments away from the traditional use of cash for local, regional and international visitors?

Yes, I believe there is. The rise of online shopping proves that people are more and more comfortable using their credit cards. The same is noticed at stores because banks are encouraging electronic transactions by rewarding customers for purchases made using credit and debit cards. Customers will soon embrace the growing popularity of mobile payments, which will further reduce the need for cash transactions.

Who are your biggest spenders typically – what countries do they come from?

From the region, heavy spenders are those of the GCC nations. Beyond the region, it is the Chinese, Russians and Indians that top the list of heavy spenders. We have also noticed a rising number of big spenders from Africa and Europe.

What do you have during DSF in terms of promotions, events and prizes?

Paris Gallery offers its customers a luxurious shopping experience throughout the year. We aim to heighten this experience and add flavor to the festivities during DSF and other festive times with instant gifts with purchases and chances to win daily prizes and grand prizes. This DSF, shopping at Paris Gallery stores could win a customer 5000 points daily, and even the grand prize of 100,000 points, where one point is equivalent to one dirham. Furthermore, there are tons of other offers and gifts given out by a number of brands across all Paris Gallery stores.

Do you have any plans of opening new branches?

A new Paris Gallery and Watch Gallery store will soon open in the YAS mall in Abu Dhabi. We also have ambitious plans to refurbish existing branches, expanding them to accommodate the rising footfall and affording the same luxurious feel and convenience that Paris Gallery is well known for. Regionally, we will be opening a few franchise stores within the second quarter of 2015 in Saudi Arabia, Baghdad and Baku, and soon after that in Muscat.