Competition will intensify in the UAE’s retail sector this week after Samsung Electronics unveiled its revamped flagship store just days before the first Apple shops open to the public in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
The Dubai Mall outlet underwent a Dh5 million renovation over 60 days that expanded it by 20 per cent to 9,200 square feet and made it the second-biggest Samsung store in the world outside of Seoul.
“We revamp our stores every three years, the timing has nothing to do with Apple,” said Niranjan Gidwani, deputy chief executive of Eros Group, the distributor for Samsung in the UAE. “The store has to change because our products do and our enhanced customer service centre can help with any installation or technical problems one may encounter.”
Samsung’s newest high-end smartphones, the S6 and S6 Edge, launched in August and have outsold the older S5 model by 10 per cent in a similar period, with the S6 Edge accounting for 60 per cent of total sales.
The world’s No 1 smartphone maker is losing market share at a rate of 11.5 per cent quarter on quarter, according to the technology research firm IDC. Rival Apple is growing its iPhones market 35 per cent year on year and by 51.4 per cent in emerging markets alone.
Samsung this month forecast a sharp rise in third-quarter profit, allaying concerns that it would not be able to shrug off the loss of market share to Apple.
It has retained its leading position thanks to increased shipments of lower-end models, particularly to regions such as South East Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
“Despite Samsung doing quite well with its new launches, the days where it gave Apple a real run for its money are gone,” said Nabila Popal, a research manager for IDC Middle East, Africa & Turkey.
“Its key competitive advantage, the large screen size, is no longer there. Apple stays true to its reputation and continues to be in high demand, although the response to the [iPhone] 6s isn’t anywhere close to the 6 last year.”
Samsung’s deep pockets are helping its UAE sales of the S6 and S6 Edge Plus offering customers a buy-back option on their old phones with a Dh250 sweetener. However, there have been signs that electronics sales have been softening in recent months with retailers reporting a tepid Eid period.
Apple’s stores will open in Abu Dhabi’s Yas Mall and Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates on Thursday.