The economic environment in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a federation of seven territories that is now one of the most important financial centres in the Middle East, remains challenging.

              Property prices in many locations have dropped, oil prices have slumped and the implementation of a 5% VAT tax on goods and services in January is said to have impacted spending.

              However, while the economy has been sluggish, the UAE received a boost in September when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) increased its 2018 GDP forecast for the region from 2% to 2.9% following rebounding oil prices and increased government spending. It came after the government revealed a plan to implement an economic package of AED50bn (£10.5bn) to boost Abu Dhabi’s growth and create new jobs. This was followed by news that Dubai was devising a tourism plan to attract 21-23 million tourists by 2022 and 23-25 million by 2025.

              There remain restrictions on political activity in the traditionally conservative region and the government presides over strong control of media output. However, the World Economic Forum ranks the UAE as the most competitive country in the Middle East and 17th globally, ahead of Saudi Arabia, which it ranks as 30th.

              The retail outlook

              Given the fall in oil prices, impact of online spending and the implementation of the 5% VAT tax, the retail industry has experienced tough trading conditions.

              However, there continues to be strong demand from foreign retailers to open stores across the UAE. In fact, Dubai was recently named the most important shopping destination worldwide, according to a report by CBRE. It said that over the next three years more than 16 million sq ft of new retail space could be launched in Dubai.

              Click a flag to find out more about each country


              Download your copy of The Global Consumer 2019 here >


              Hilary Ross

              • Head of Retail, Food & Hospitality // Executive Partner (London)

              Oliver Bolthausen, LL.M. (USA), FCIArb (UK)

              • Partner // Managing Partner (Germany) // Global Head of International Arbitration & Disputes

              Ed Meikle

              • Partner // Head of Retail Group

              We use cookies to give you the best user experience on our website. Please let us know if you accept our use of cookies.

              Manage cookies

              Your Privacy

              When you visit any web site, it may store or retrieve information on your browser, mostly in the form of cookies. We mainly use this information to ensure the site works as you expect it to, and to learn how we can improve the experience in the future. The information does not usually directly identify you, but it can give you a more personalised web experience.
              Because we respect your right to privacy, you can choose not to allow some types of cookies. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change permissions. However, blocking some types of cookies may prevent certain site functionality from working as expected

              Functional cookies


              These cookies let you use the website and are required for the website to function as expected.

              These cookies are required

              Tracking cookies

              Anonymous cookies that help us understand the performance of our website and how we can improve the website experience for our users. Some of these may be set by third parties we trust, such as Google Analytics.

              They may also be used to personalise your experience on our website by remembering your preferences and settings.

              Marketing cookies

              These cookies are used to improve and personalise your experience with our brands. We may use these cookies to show adverts for our products, or measure the performance of our adverts.