|Aerial view of the Dragon Mart Shopping Centre, Dubai|
Dragon Mart provides an insight into a different world. It is a mall that is 1.2km long and contains 3,950 shops. Both the shops that fill the mall and the products that fill the shops do not bear US and European familiar brand names as most of the world's shopping malls do. Dragonmart is dedicated to efficiency and cheapness. The China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO) has a huge logistics centre next to the mall allowing new goods to be brought straight off the ship from China and wholesale purchases to be exported anywhere in the world.
Who are the customers and what are they buying?
To a large extent, the customers are wholesalers and bargain-hunting migrant workers in Dubai. The bargains are attractive, for example, a digital camera for 99 dirhams ($27) or a treadmill for 700 ($190) dirhams.The Dragon Mart may not be everyone's cup of tea, that is, not everyone may be attracted to polyester Persian carpets or plastic executive desks. Many companies specialise in producing cheap imitations of popular US and European brands. Yet Dragon Mart (and its Chinese manufacturers) cannot be dismissed. Dragon Mart caters for what many believe is the world’s most exciting group of consumers, the emerging middle class. The Consultancy Mckinsey estimates that this group could include 2bn people who spend $6.9 trillion a year. These people cannot afford to shop buying expensive branded US and European products, yet they too are seeking the status symbols of middle-class life. For them, many of the goods displayed represent the dream of upward mobility. The below video shows some of the products on offer at the Dubai Dragon Mart.
Dubai Dragon Mart is also evidence of the rebirth of one of the world’s oldest trading routes, the silk road. The old silk road specialised in luxuries like silk. The new silk road specialises in everything, interestingly with a stress on plastic. Furthermore, Dubai boasts two of the most important transport hubs on this road: the world’s ninth-biggest container port and one of its busiest airports. The rebirth of the new silk route will increasingly branch out to the emerging economies of the world by sea and air bringing affordable consumer goods to the new emerging middle classes in the Américas and Africa.