Gitex! Shopper’s Delight or Retailer’s Paradise?

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Last week, the Airport Expo Dubai was the scene of one of the most frantic retail events of the year, the GITEX Shopper & Consumer Electronics Expo 2006. This seven-day event beckoned consumers with bundled offers, bargains, discounts, competitions, lucky draws, easy installment schemes, instant rewards and prizes.

“The show occupied 22,000 square meters in two halls where more than 150 leading regional resellers, distributors and vendors were offering some of the best deals in the Middle East. These exclusive offers were the key attraction for consumers passionate about having the latest technology and gadgets,” said Dubai World Trade Center Director General Helal Saeed Al-Marri.

The selling halls were packed with mobile phones, PDAs and handhelds, digital cameras, laptops, printers and home entertainment products. Vendors exhibiting at the show were delighted as the sales volume hit a record high of more than 82 million dirhams with over 125,000 visitors coming to the exhibition.

Sounds super, but don’t get overly excited. The GITEX Shopper is really a means to push electronic mass market goods. Nothing more, nothing less. Ahmed, who was working at the Shopper for Emirates Computer, gave an inside view on the show.

“People come to the Shopper show because they think that they will find the lowest prices here and top-of-the-line equipment. But that’s not true at all,” he said. “The prices are actually fixed from the vendors and no one is allowed to sell below the fixed price. For instance, every retailer has been given a list with the lowest prices for Nokia handsets at the show. One retailer was selling a handset for six dirhams below the listed price and he was caught and ordered to increase the price.”

Ahmed went on to explain that the only real bargains at the Shopper were the bundled deals. A camera might be sold along with a printer or a mobile phone offered with a Bluetooth headset. In general, in a bundled deal, at least one of the products is not the latest available.

“Many people come to the Shopper without doing their homework on the prices and equipment in the market,” Ahmed advised. “They just assume they will get the lowest prices here but it is certain that in town, they could find the same equipment cheaper. Most consumers really don’t know what the absolutely latest models are and especially when it comes to the notebooks, they don’t realize that differences in memory or processor speed can mean a lot in terms of performance. People from outside the UAE quickly discover that most equipment sold at the Shopper only comes with a warranty good in the UAE. So there isn’t even the benefit of after-sales service. That is to the benefit of the vendor of course.”

It was really disappointing to see that many of the same items were available from every retailer at the Shopper. It was only the contests or product bundling that provided any differential. Some items couldn’t be found at all, such as equipment for IP telephony. Parking for the event was horrible. After 3 p.m. everyday the roads to the Airport Expo were packed and upon arrival at the Shopper, consumers were confronted with completely full parking lots which compelled people to park kilometers away and walk on the highway.

What does it cost to exhibit at the shopper? One retailer stated that his 70 square meter display had cost 125,000 dirhams — for the space alone. For the volume retailers, the Shopper is a superb event due to the large amount of product that can be sold in a week. So that’s why they are more than willing to pay for the space. There is also another reason that some vendors are interested in exhibiting at the Shopper.

"We have a new brand, ‘Vinverth,’ to show to the consumer market," said Faizal Abdulkarim, manager, Advertising & Promotions, Jupiter Electronics. “We believe our High Definition (HVD) players will be attractive to consumers but we needed to communicate our message in a venue with high traffic and GITEX Shopper was a good location for that.”

Abdulkarim stated that using their HVD equipment, a regular DVD will be played with 20 percent more clarity even when connected to a non-HD TV. The company had all their products set up at the Shopper for consumers to try.

The GITEX Shopper was also clearly as much about entertainment as it was about sales. The retailer Jumbo had theme performers alongside their pavilion, while Sharaf DG conducted a Karaoke Star Contest at their stand. HP presented a state-of-the-art interactive "HP Zone" that showcased the smart home concept as well as HP’s Lifestyle products. And everyone wanted to take a chance and win a prize. At the “Shopper Mega Draw,” consumers could win a complete Home Theater System with a 40” Plasma TV.

It should also be noted that some of the best prices at the Shopper were on notebooks from most major vendors. The notebooks were being offered at prices up to 50 percent off compared to their price just last month. Some vendors stated that they would be reducing the price on those notebook models throughout the GCC in deference to their GCC retail channel partners. So if you’ve been interested in buying a computer for a while now, take this opportunity to go and shop around.

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