The GCC retail industry will surpass pre-pandemic levels in 2022 as it returns to steady growth after a period of disruption, with 36% year-on-year growth expected for FIFA World Cup 2022 host Qatar. 

Mega events including the World Cup, the return of tourism and population growth are among factors cited in the return to growth, with Duty Free Sales at airports also expected to grow by 65.5% year-on-year to reach $2.2 billion in 2022 and further projected to reach $3.0 billion by 2026, implying a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.4%.

In its latest report, Alpen Capital projected that the GCC retail sector overall will see 15.7% year-on-year growth, reaching revenue of $297.8 billion in 2022, with a CAGR of 5.7% to reach $370 billion by 2026.

Qatar will see the highest growth in the region during 2022, with its sales expected to reach $18.5 billion, however, growth is expected to normalise at a CAGR of 3.5% after the World Cup, Alpen said.

Favourable demographics, improving macroeconomic factors and tourism revival will contribute to the growth, along with governments’ push for economic diversification and growing prominence of retailers who sell in both bricks and mortar and online settings, the report said.

“The industry was severely hit by the restrictions imposed during the pandemic; however, retailers were responsive to the changing demands and innovated to sail through difficult times,” said Sameena Ahmad, MD, corporate affairs, Alpen Capital (ME) Limited.

“As the retail industry continues to recover, there is an urgent need for retailers to upscale their digital presence to stay relevant as well as compete with regional and international players 


Krishna Dhanak, MD, said GCC retail is transforming post-pandemic and that consolidation is expected.

“Operators have shifted their focus on brand acquisition to strengthen their geographical presence as well as expand and diversify their product offerings,” he said.

“Larger e-commerce players are likely to acquire niche operators offering customised products and services.

“Going forward, we expect consolidation in the industry to intensify in order to drive earnings, gain market share and improve operational efficiency.”

Alpen said across the region, non-food retail sales are forecasted to grow at a CAGR of 6.2% between 2022 and 2026, while food retail sales are anticipated to increase at an annualised rate of 4.9% during the same period.

Saudi Arabia and UAE lead sales regionally, cumulatively accounting for 78.5% of the total sales by 2026, the report added, due to large and diverse populations, liberalisation of policies and a growing appetite for unique shopping experiences.

Retail sales in the kingdom and the UAE are forecasted to grow at a CAGR of 6.5% and 5.1%, respectively, between 2022 and 2026, Alpen said.  

Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait are expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.3%, 6.1% and 3.5%, respectively during the forecast period, Alpen concluded.

(Reporting by Imogen Lillywhite; editing by   Daniel Luiz)