One letter and a world apart: Reflections on recovery analytics

22 Dec 2020
Alain Bejjani — CEO, Majid Al Futtaim — Holding;
I’ve talked a great deal this last week about the Majid Al Futtaim advanced analytics that detail the recovery of the UAE’s retail economy. But even as the top-line findings continue to make headlines, there is still much to be gleaned from the finer details.

Here are a few details that I found to be illuminating:

1. The difference between a soft W-shaped recovery and the V-shape that preceded it.
Although these are only one letter apart, there is obviously a world of difference between them. There’s also considerable difference between a shallow or soft shape and a deeper or full one. The drop in activity in September averaged 15%, for example; in a full W-shape, the drop would have been closer to 40%. We are clearly on an upswing here, with implications for the entire economy. We can choose to pay attention and act, or not.

2. Data like these also allow us to see what’s working and what’s not working quite so well right now.
For Dubai, for example, hotels were up by 19% in August, driven by staycations. In the same month, F&B was up 22% and home furnishings sales grew by 38%. At the macro level, I believe these are valuable indicators of confidence and trust in Dubai and the UAE, its safety standards and its capacity to recover.

3. Data are indicative, not prescriptive and not definitive.
While grocery, F&B, home and fashion have been stable, with some growing post-lockdown, hotels, electronics and luxury fashion have not yet recovered. What we do with this information is up to us: Do we wring and sit on our hands or do we adapt and innovate?

4. Nuance is vital.
Yes, ecommerce is thriving and essential, but half of the online sales for fashion and electronics are initiated in mall showrooms and completed online. Let’s think carefully about the implications of that, and how to improve it.

5. Let’s continue to dig.
Our footfall at our Majid Al Futtaim malls is up 60% between June and October 2020, and the data also shows that our malls appear to be more resilient than our competitors. What do we do with this insight? It’s tempting to congratulate ourselves, but the wiser course is to find out more. Why is this happening, will it continue, how do we build on this — these are some of the questions that need to be asked and answered.

I hope these additional details are useful for some of you. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and to sharing more analytics in future.