Take a sneak peek into Apple’s first stores in the Middle East

The stores, situated in upscale shopping malls in the capital Abu Dhabi and Dubai, will open their doors to customers on Thursday

Paul Crompton

Published: Updated:

Apple on Tuesday revealed the interiors of its two new retail outlets in the UAE, marking the U.S. tech giant’s first brick-and-mortar foray into the Middle East.

The stores, situated in upscale shopping malls in the capital Abu Dhabi and Dubai, will open their doors to customers on Thursday.

The Dubai outlet, slightly larger than its Abu Dhabi counterpart, will see customers walk through 16-foot-high glass doors to browse its shiny offerings displayed on long oak tables, and is equipped with a conference room and “Genius bar” under a tree-lined sunlit canopy.

Apple spokespeople at the Dubai launch declined to give details on the size of the outlets, or the status of ownership.

A report by Bloomberg in August suggested that the California-based firm - the world’s largest listed company - had been given an exemption from the UAE’s ownership laws, which usually require a 51 percent stake from a local partner. This claim was later denied by the UAE ministry of economy.

Apple’s products enjoy a high popularity in the UAE, where high demand regularly fuels sales of grey market iPhones weeks before their official regional release.

London-based business intelligence firm Euromonitor told Al Arabiya News that Apple’s market share will increase between 2-5 percentage points in the UAE as an immediate consequence of the store’s opening.

Estimated retail sales of consumer electronics in the Gulf region currently amount to $11.8 bln, and are forecasted to reach $14 billion by the year 2020, said Nikola Kosutic, a research manager at Euromonitor’s UAE branch.

With the launch of the new Apple stores in the UAE, Kosutic added that the launch will likely further boost the adoption of Apple’s products.

Apple’s share in the lucrative Gulf smartphone market amounts to 19 percent, compared to the world average of 15 percent.

Apple is also hoping to make a lot of sales off the regular flow of tourists in the UAE – and in particular Dubai. Authorities hope for almost 20 million visitors by 2020.

The analyst said that brand loyalty, coupled with high disposable income leads to strong sales in the Gulf region.

New presence

With the upcoming retail presence, one UAE-based reseller of Apple products expects a short-term dip in their own sales of Apple products.

Nadeem Khanzadah, an executive for local electronics retail chain Jumbo, told Al Arabiya News that the launch of the Apple store is expected to cause a negative impact on Jumbo’s sales of Apple products – but only temporarily.

The retailer’s sales will soon return to growth once people “get used to the idea [of the new Apple store],” he said.

“We are a multi-brand retail environment. Whereas, an Apple store will only give them information and experience on an Apple product,” added Khanzadah.

Meanwhile, another large retailer said that Apple’s new retail presence in the UAE would not affect their own sales of Apple products. “We believe that the market will grow and the Apple share will further increase [as a result of the store openings],” said Mahesh Chotrani, the assistant Vice President of Jacky’s Electronics.

One of the UAE’s largest resellers of Apple products, iStyle, which also has outlets in Saudi, Bahrain and Lebanon, declined to comment.