The footwear market in the United Arab Emirates

Spanish footwear exports to the United Arab Emirates had a growth in 2021 close to 20%. Even so, the market share of Spanish brands barely exceeds 6%. If we compare it with Italian footwear, we see that its positioning almost reaches 40%. Spanish footwear still has a long way to go.
The market study recently carried out by the International Economic Relations Division of J.A. Muñoz-Zafrilla Abogados in Dubai and Abu Dhabi shows that Spanish brands are practically unknown to local consumers and expatriates who live in the Emirates. Their medium-high income allows them to have access to a quality product of recognised international prestige. Few Spanish footwear brands enjoy this same recognition.
The need to introduce Spanish footwear of this quality range in Arab markets could partially compensate for the drop in sales in some traditional markets.
The strategy being followed by the J.A. Muñoz-Zafrilla firm through and in collaboration with the main Emirati distributors is to introduce Spanish brands with quality products and excellent designs aimed at a demanding consumer, with competitive prices and high profitability for the distributor.
The outlook for the footwear retail sector in the UAE indicates in our market study that consumption is already beginning a slow recovery in sales, as in other industrial sectors prior to the pandemic.
The Emirati economy is highly diversified around real estate, construction, tourism, trade, logistics and finance. The world of fashion (clothing, footwear, leather goods) has a very important economic and social importance in Dubai and the rest of the Emirati states, as there is great interest on the part of the large distribution groups in positioning the United Arab Emirates as one of the world’s fashion reference points.
The ICEX, on its website, points out the importance of the value of the footwear sector, which exceeded 3,405 M $ in 2019, the year before the Covid-19 pandemic, with a growth in value compared to 2017 -2018 of 4.9%.
The statistical breakdown of the footwear sector in its different categories, children’s, women’s and men’s, shows that growth is uneven, as we can see below.
Men’s footwear is the largest in terms of sales value, having reached a figure in 2019 slightly above $1.5 billion, followed by women’s footwear with a figure close to $1.3 billion. Children’s and youth footwear exceeded 560 M$.
It is relevant to point out that women’s footwear is the one that has achieved the highest growth in the last five years. It is an opportunity for Spanish companies in this product range to address this market by offering fashion and excellent designs at competitive prices.
Emirati women value design, shoe quality, comfort and good value for money, and these are the arguments that Spanish brands can use to position themselves in these markets with guaranteed success.
In the lower ranges we have Asian footwear, with a very important market share of 60%. They are private label and have no reference to fashion, and come mostly from China, India and Pakistan. Their designs are very basic and are aimed at a customer profile with very limited purchasing power.
However, data from the Spanish OFECOMES in Dubai are conclusive when they point out that in headings 64.03 and 64.04, which includes footwear with uppers of leather and textile, Italy is the leading exporting country, with a market share of almost 40%, followed by France with 14% and Spain with 6%.
The summary of this report clearly demonstrates that the UAE market and the rest of the Middle East countries are a great opportunity for Spanish footwear.
The commercialisation is carried out by numerous distribution firms through their multi-brand shops, and as we have mentioned before, Spain has the best value for money with excellent designs and avant-garde fashion. The 160 million pairs exported to more than 130 countries is proof of this.

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