Consumer insight: Purchase habits of UAE consumer

I have received multiple requests from people who are seeking trends and insights (facts and figures) into UAE consumer. Before we move toward more meaningful insights it is important to know some basic facts, following is the compilation of few basic facts. Hope it will add value to your daily jobs.

Purchase habits are the outcome of three things

  1. Purchase potential
  2. Lifestyle
  3. Retail/Brand scenario

Here is a factual presentation on all these fronts in UAE.

Purchase Potential

  1. UAE per capita income US $ 36,537. Second highest in GCC and on number 15th in the world
  2. 2.4 million Credit cards in 2008. Highest penetration of credit cards in the world i.e. 595 and the total number circumscribe 1/3rd of all credit cards in the region (Source: MasterCard report on UAE credit cards)
  3. Loans: More than 50% of Emiratis who participated in the survey take loans from banks. 61% of Emiratis borrowed money to buy cars; 24% for constructing houses; 11% for marriages, remaining 4% borrowed money for other purposes.  
  4. Impact of financial crisis: Only 10% of customers in the UAE consider themselves financially exposed, the second lowest in the survey after Saudi Arabia at 4%. (Source: Synovate Survey) 
  5. Expected future outcomes: only 4% of UAE consumers expect their personal financial situation to worsen in the immediate future
  6. In the UAE, 21 % said they were better off than last year, 34% said they were in the same position as last year and 39% said they were in a worse position than last year. Overall consumer confidence rose by 4.4 points
  7. Consumer prices increased 2.8 per cent on a yearly basis in March, compared to an annual increase of 1.9 per cent the month earlier


  1. Online habits: UAE had the highest average online shopping spend in the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa region, of US$1,048, compared to a slightly higher figure of US$ 1,193 a year ago.
  2. Internet and mobile penetration is one of the most promising in the region
  3. Luxury is a lifestyle: Twenty-six percent of UAE respondents agreed that luxury is a lifestyle, the highest in the survey.
  4. Luxury is a lifestyle: 49% in UAE would buy second hand luxury
  5. A craving for fine jewelry: UAE lead on the likelihood of purchase of Fine Jewelry (28%) in response to the question pretending for a moment that money was no object.  
  6. But still bargain brands rose by 12 percent to 49 percent of those polled. Data monitor report
  7. According to JWT’s anxiety index 78% of UAE ‘s population is anxious/nervous
  8. IT Spending in UAE to Witness 9.1% Growth in 2010, and in 2010 consumer IT spending will surpass enterprise IT spending
  9. Top ten brand of United Arab Emirates

Retail scenario/brands

  1. Favorite electronic supplies retailer is Sharaf DG (47%)
  2. There are 189 malls in UAE, you can imagine the number outlets. Do Consider that Dubai has worlds’ largest malls.
  3. In UAE people prefer to gather information about the brands at the retail front/shop windows (69%)  
  4. Top ten brand of United Arab Emirates
Rank Brand Score Sector
 1st Nokia 65.3 Telecom and Network Providers
2nd Emirates 63.5 Airlines
3rd Google 60 Consumer Electronics and Internet
4th Sony 59 Consumer Electronics and Internet
5th Dettol 58 Non-Food FMCG
6th Carrefour 54.3 Retail
7th Masafi 53.7 Beverages
8th Microsoft 52.6 Consumer Electronics and Internet
9th IKEA 52 Retail
10th Nestle 51.7 Snacks

What does this mean?

  1. The real growth opportunity lies at the online retail front. But consumer’s need to be educated. This demands a lifestyle change in UAE. Reason being, visiting the malls is a popular recreational activity.
  2. Luxury is the wanted lifestyle in UAE but look at the top ten brands most of them are economy brands, this shows the difference between ‘share of dream’ and ‘share of mind’. This segment is bound to grow in UAE.    

Additional Resources

Master card survey on Middle East

Retail trends for 2010

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2 responses to “Consumer insight: Purchase habits of UAE consumer

  1. these are great details. i hope it’s ok to quote the study where this research has been based? thanks! and well done!

    • Hi Albert,

      Thanks for your positive comments, it sure uplifts the spirits.

      This is a basic compilation of all stats that I could find on the subject. The sources for each study are available in each bullet as hyperlink.

      And yes, feel free to quote the information…!!

      Thanks – Ayesha

      Just FYI, the site has now moved on to

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