Christmas shopping beckons Middle Eastern bargain hunters

December 10, 2007 10:18 am

The sprawling networks of the Gulf airlines leave local residents will many options for five-star retail jaunts.

New York used to be a very long haul via European hubs but the Emirates direct service has made the single hop across the Atlantic a reality for the past few years.

However, for many wealthy Gulf nationals and residents it is still the bright lights of London that have the maximum allure. Oxford Street and Selfridges, Harrods and Kensington, the Kings Road in Chelsea, these are world-class retail destinations.

For children Santa Klaus has been resident in his grotto at Harrods for a couple of months, and this completely non-religious experience for kids is free of charge.

Stay close

Given the colder weather of the season it makes sense to stay close to the shops. Jumeriah has its Carlton Tower hotel just around the corner from Harrods as well as its newly refurbished Lowndes hotel very close by. Off Oxford Street, Grosvenor House, The Dorchester, Hyde Park Hilton and Four Seasons offer convenient locations.

Over in New York the Jumeirah group can also offer excellent accommodation in the Essex Hotel. Again staying near the shops in a hotel overlooking Central Park makes sense.

Really dedicated shoppers might consider a two-centre holiday shopping spree in London and New York. The only problem being that you can not queue at the same time for the New Year’s sales at both Harrods in London and Macy’s in New York.

On the other hand, there is some talk in retail circles about New Year sales being moved forward this year and actually starting before Christmas. The reason is that the stores are worried that the credit crunch and concerns about a recession in 2008 is likely to result in the worst holiday shopping season since the early 1990s.

New York wins

For the smart Gulf shopper New York is probably the choice over London for late 2007. The recent weakness of the US dollar has left the pound sterling overvalued, and the price of many comparable items is lower in New York, often by quite a wide margin.

It will also be the same story for hotel and restaurant bills. Gulf currencies are all pegged to the US dollar so that means the declining greenback has made London even more expensive than usual this year.

Retailers in the US have also been harder hit by the mounting financial crisis thus far than there counterparts in London; and American shops are therefore more likely to be desperate to clinch a sale.

On balance then the longer flight to New York might well be worth the extra time when balanced against cheaper shopping, hotels and restaurants this holiday season.