By Armina Ligaya 

Crowds of tourists visiting the Burj Khalifa have boosted retail sales near the world’s tallest tower by as much as 30 per cent.

Shoppers stop to look at the Burj Khalifa during sunset in Dubai. Randi Sokoloff / The National
Shoppers stop to look at the Burj Khalifa during sunset in Dubai. Randi Sokoloff / The National

Since the 828-metre-tall building opened its observation deck to visitors on January 4, the bustling activity has trickled down to the tills in neighbouring Dubai Mall and Souk Al Bahar, retailers say.

Maricel Bihasa, a saleswoman at the small furniture and gift shop Tarrab at Dubai Mall, said her sales were up 30 per cent.

“Before, there was no one outside,” Ms Bihasa said. “But when the Burj Khalifa opened, there were a lot more people passing through. There are tourists every day.”

Nilesh Ved, the chairman of Apparel Group, said sales at its Dubai Mall outlets, including Aldo and Aeropostale, received a sales boost of between 15 and 20 per cent after the Burj Khalifa opened.

“Every tourist landing in Dubai right now is going to see the Burj Khalifa, and they’re going to Dubai Mall,” Mr Ved said.

The Burj Khalifa, more than 160 storeys tall, opened last month amid fanfare and fireworks after five years of construction.

Tourists are a common sight at the base of the tower, with cameras in hand and necks craning back to take a photograph, and they are giving a much-needed boost to surrounding retailers after a tough year.

Consumers in the emirate have watched their budgets as new malls, such as Oasis Centre, further stretched the available pool of shoppers.

While the traffic at Dubai Mall has grown gradually since it opened in November 2008, the unveiling of the emirate’s newest tourist attraction triggered an added rush, said Mohi-Din bin Hendi, the president of the Bin Hendi retail group that runs Sammach seafood restaurant in Souk Al Bahar. He estimates sales at his Souk Al Bahar and Dubai Mall restaurants and shops grew by between 15 and 20 per cent last month, compared with December.

“It has definitely helped,” Mr bin Hendi said. “That area is really booming and doing well.”

Jane Hunter, the assistant manager of More Cafe in Dubai Mall, said business was constant.

“Before, there used to be set times when people would come; at lunch time or at dinner,” she said. “It was mainly business people from the surrounding area. Now, we seem to be running all day.”

But not all stores are reaping the benefits. Shamsher Ali, the manager of Emad Carpets in Souk Al Bahar, said he had seen new faces in the mall, but they were not spending.

“People come to the Burj, go to the restaurants, see the fountain and are here for entertainment,” Mr Ali said. “But they don’t really buy anything.”

Laurent-Patrick Gally, a retail analyst at Shuaa Capital in Dubai, said restaurants were likely to benefit most from the extra customers, but long-term gains for other retailers hinged on whether their wares appealed to tourists or tower residents.

“You always have people hungry at some point, or thirsty,” Mr Gally said. “As long as there is customer footfall, and as long as the price is reasonable, you’re likely to get business. But you need a range of offerings that correspond to what people are looking for.”

Whether this boost will last remains to be seen, said Mr Ved, whose group has 240 stores in the UAE. “It’s a novelty right now. It is honeymoon days,” he said. “We have to see how it goes after that.”