On­line fash­ion in the UAE

Friday - - Fashion -

Be­fore I moved to Dubai from the UK four years ago, I used to do all of my shop­ping on­line. From my clothes to my weekly food shop, if I didn’t want to step into a store, I never had to. Then I ar­rived in the UAE and be­gan to re­alise my on­line shop­ping op­tions were some­what lim­ited and I was go­ing to have to visit a mall to get what I needed. ‘The e-com­merce boom started in the UAE around 2013-2014,’ says Ulug­bek Yul­da­shev, founder and CEO of Awok.com. So we are still way be­hind other devel­oped coun­tries, who’ve had a suc­cess­ful in­dus­try for up to 10 years now.

Don’t get me wrong – in the last four years things have im­proved. Namshi.com, which you could say is the UAE’s an­swer to Bri­tish on­line store Asos, launched in 2011 and has be­come the re­gion’s most suc­cess­ful on­line-only mass-mar­ket fash­ion re­tailer. Souq.com is a huge plat­form that al­lows sell­ers to upload their own items to be sold lo­cally. And of course many in­ter­na­tional brands are now ship­ping and de­liv­er­ing here.

But while the growth has been slow, it looks like 2017 will be the year the UAE catches up with the likes of the UK and US, mak­ing on­line shop­ping sec­ond na­ture to con­sumers.

‘One thing is for sure and that is that the con­sumer is in the driv­ing seat and the cat­a­lyst for change is tech­nol­ogy,’ says Me­gan Biebuyck, VP of mar­ket­ing at Namshi. Namshi saw 80 per cent of its cus­tomers ac­cess­ing its on­line store through its app on tablets or smart­phones, so it’s not just about the web­site – it’s about un­der­stand­ing what makes the lives of shop­pers eas­ier.

Most re­cently, in De­cem­ber last year, Ou­nass, an on­line lux­ury fash­ion and beauty re­tailer, went live. Per­haps the most sig­nif­i­cant part of this an­nounce­ment is that they will de­liver prod­ucts to con­sumers within two hours of or­der­ing. (I tested out that prom­ise this week – and our items ar­rived in one hour and five min­utes. I’ve had sal­ads that have taken longer to de­liver.)

Early 2017 will see the launch of a very dif­fer­ent site, Noon.com, which last week an­nounced it will be stock­ing hun­dreds of fash­ion brands with over three mil­lion items avail­able for same or next day de­liv­ery. The site says this is more than five times more than its near­est com­peti­tor.

‘For too long, con­sumers who want to buy fash­ion on­line in the Mid­dle East have suf­fered from a lack of va­ri­ety,’ says Mo­ham­mad Alab­bar, the founder of Noon. The site, which will go live this month, aims to change this, with a fo­cus on high street and sports­wear, mak­ing af­ford­able fash­ion eas­ier to ac­cess on­line than ever be­fore. ‘Fash­ion will be at the very heart of the Noon ex­pe­ri­ence… We will also launch with a large pri­vate la­bel col­lec­tion that will of­fer un­matched value to the cus­tomer,’ said Alab­bar in a state­ment. This pri­vate col­lec­tion will be Noon’s in-house range of own-brand prod­ucts – some­thing none of its di­rect com­peti­tors (the likes of Namshi and Sivvi) have. Aside from fash­ion, the site will stock 20 mil­lion prod­ucts in to­tal, from books to health and beauty prod­ucts.

Mean­while, brands with stores within the re­gion are ac­knowl­edg­ing the need for on­line shop­ping by launch­ing e-com­merce ver­sions of their brands. Ulug­bek pre­dicts, ‘With the en­try of more dig­i­tal com­merce busi­nesses in the mar­ket, as well as the in­creas­ing de­mand for on­line buy­ing among con­sumers, there will be a more ac­tive shift from bricks-and-mor­tar stores to on­line, which will re­sult in more sales hap­pen­ing through this medium.’

We are al­ready start­ing to see this hap­pen. High street store Splash went live with its shop­pable web­site in the sec­ond half of last year, as did Marks & Spencer. Lo­cally run bou­tique Val­ley­dez an­nounced the launch of its web­site the same week as it closed its Dubai flag­ship store – prov­ing on­line is the area it will be in­vest­ing in this year. While the ex­pe­ri­ence of vis­it­ing the UAE’s su­per-malls will prob­a­bly never go away, the con­ve­nience of hav­ing items de­liv­ered to your door is some­thing that goes hand-in-hand. When we don’t have time to go to a mall, e-com­merce is the easy op­tion, and it’ll hope­fully start to be­come a lot eas­ier this year.

Our pick of fash­ion sites you can shop from: Ou­nass, Asos and Namshi have all made their marks in the UAE

We or­dered an item from Ou­nass and it ar­rived in one hour five min­utes in this lovely pre­sen­ta­tion box

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