Long queues, busy malls in UAE: Back-to-school shopping kicks off

With most schools opening on August 28, there is just over a week remaining of the long summer break


Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Sun 20 Aug 2023, 2:26 PM

Last updated: Sun 20 Aug 2023, 10:20 PM

Residents across the UAE faced long queues and heavy rush in various parts of the country as back-to-school shopping began in earnest. With most schools opening on August 28, there is just over a week remaining of the long summer break.

Maheen H., who was out shopping for uniforms for her sons in Karama in Dubai, said that she saw long queues outside a popular store. “I just returned from my vacation this weekend and I wanted to get a head start on the uniform shopping,” she said. “However, it feels like many other parents had the same idea.”

The German expat then finished some grocery shopping and, on her way, back saw that the queue had become even longer. “People were waiting in the heat, and I am sure they had to stand for at least an hour or so in line,” she said. “I am going to go back on Monday morning and try my luck again. I am sure there will be some crowds, but I definitely hope it will be better than the weekend rush.”

With many UAE residents returning to the country after their summer vacation, traffic on roads has seen a steady increase.

A popular uniform company had hundreds of customers visiting their stores across the UAE over the weekend. “We are asking parents to pre-book their appointments online to avoid any wait,” said a call centre representative. Several of the store’s online appointment slots are fully booked. For next weekend- the last one before schools reopen- no appointments are available in anticipation of a huge rush.

Adeel Ahmed, who visited Dubai Mall to buy school supplies for his three children found the mall to be extremely crowded. “I was shopping for some good quality shoes and bags and the mall was so busy,” he said. “The salespersons were extremely busy and there were long queues at the cash counter. I waited for almost 40 minutes to pay,” he said.

The Indian expat said he had waited till the end of the summer vacation for various reasons. “Most children go through a growth spurt during the summer break,” he said. “Previously, I made the mistake of buying shoes and uniforms at the beginning of the summer break and by the time they returned to school, my children were already starting to outgrow it. So, this time I decided to wait until the end. It is a bit crowded in the shops, but I am glad I waited.”

For many students including those studying in the British and IB curriculum, this will mark the beginning of a new academic year. From school uniforms to books to lunchboxes, many parents have to shell out thousands of dirhams for new supplies. Some have found ingenious ways to cut costs and make sustainable choices.

At a popular stationery shop in Karama, there was a considerable crowd on Friday evening. “Mornings are not usually too crowded but evenings- especially those over the weekends, get very busy,” said a shop representative. “The crowds were pretty similar last year but the difference is that the rush started earlier. So, we had customers every weekend starting from August. This year it feels like people came back from their vacation later so the crowd has been concentrated this weekend. I think next weekend will be even more busy.”

Sharjah resident Maitha said she had gone shopping on Saturday evening to City Centre Zahia and it was very crowded. “There were so many people,” she said. “I had gone to buy lunchboxes and water bottles as my children have been using theirs for two years now. It was extremely crowded, and many things were out of stock. We bought some of the items but for others, I have to go again. I think I will go sometime during the week in the morning as I don’t want to deal with more crowds.”


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