UAE: Update for retailers during COVID-19

As seen in other countries, the UAE has also started to ease some of the restrictions imposed in response to COVID-19. Whilst parts of shopping malls (such as ATMs, supermarkets and pharmacies) have remained open throughout, there will be a gradual reopening of the other parts of shopping malls.

Both the Government of Dubai and the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development have issued their own directives and guidelines to assist mall operators reopening their shopping malls.

Reopening will be subject to a number of precautionary measures, many of which consumers are now accustomed to – such as mandatory PPE (masks and gloves), temperature checks for anyone entering and social distancing signage.

There are some additional restrictions which are less familiar, but that retailers need to know:

  • Reduced trading hours (10 hours in Dubai and 9 hours in Abu Dhabi).

  • Limiting the numbers of customers in stores to 30% of the store’s usual capacity. In Dubai, stores are required to affix a “red tag” at the front door indicating maximum number of customers permitted in-store.

  • Social distancing between seating and disposable packaging and utensils for F&B outlets.

  • Mall parking to be restricted, with 75% of parking closed in Dubai and 50% of parking closed in Abu Dhabi.

  • Visitors over 60 years are not permitted to enter. In Dubai, children between 3-12 years old are also not permitted to enter.

  • Returns/exchanges are being limited to defective products only.

  • Changing rooms are closed.

  • For those businesses in the luxury goods sector there are additional requirements in relation to trying on such things as jewellery and testing perfumes.

In the Emirate of Dubai, additional restrictions are in place which limits customer visitation to no more than three hours and prohibits stores conducting promotions, sales or entertainment to attract customers. On a daily basis, a number of retail outlets are being closed by the authorities for failing to adhere to the new requirements.

In the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development has issued a directive that shopping malls will only be given a permit to recommence trading once all staff have been tested negative for COVID-19.

Depending on the duration of these new restrictions and whether they reflect a ‘new normal’, mall operators may need to revisit their designs:

  • to incorporate isolation rooms and separate entrances and exits so that temperature screenings can be conducted without impeding on customer flow; and

  • reconsider how facilities like bathrooms and elevators can operate in future where social distancing is the norm.

Franchisors may wish to look at updating their Operations Manuals to deal with longer term social distancing and health/sanitisation requirements to protect customers. Also, consideration may need to be had to refurbishments and architectural plans given some smaller food & beverage outlets will find it difficult to comply with the social distancing requirements for table service.

Last reviewed: 28 April 2020

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