Electronic retailers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region perceive future high demand for wearable gadgets, but just over half of them are currently keeping stock of wearables.
Consumer markets in the Middle East and North Africa often keep up with the rest of the world in terms of adoption of new consumer electronic products, albeit at a slower pace. Even with high interest in new products such as wearables, retailers may be taking a cautious approach.
As much as 40 percent of vendors and electronic retailers in the MENA region do not stock any form of wearable technology, according to a report released last week by DISTREE Middle East.
A total of 57 senior executives of electronic retailers were asked in early April if they stocked wearable products in their stores. Just 67 percent said they were stocking smartwatches, 54 percent said they were keeping audio-centric wearables, while 50 percent were stocking health and fitness wearables.
Those surveyed anticipate high growth for wearables starting this year and beyond, and more than 70 percent believe they can pull out high profit margins in 2014 from this segment.
To meet high demand, 78 percent of retailers are adding smartwatches, and 58 percent plan to expand their portfolio of health and fitness wearables in the next 12 months.
“The awareness of wearables remains severely limited in the Middle East retail channel. With the exception of Pebble in the smartwatch category and Fitbit in fitness devices – both of which achieved 40 per cent brand recognition among retailers – other wearables brands are just not widely known in the MENA retail channel,” Liam McSherry, marketing director at DISTREE Events, said in a statement.
The survey comes ahead of DISTREE Middle East 2014, an industry event bringing together retailers, vendors, distributors and executives from around the world who are looking to expand their business interests in MENA countries.
First held in Fujairah, UAE in 2005, the event is the “ultimate professional networking event for senior executives from the consumer electronics, digital device and ICT products retail channel in the Middle East (ME) region,” according to its website.
This year’s event, to be held next month at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr in Abu Dhabi, will focus on wearable technology and products. Delegates can test the latest gadgets in a Wearable Tech Zone, and will listen for new opportunities in various retail and distribution markets across MENA during the Conference Programme.
Industry meetings like this aim to jumpstart sales in the wearables segment, which is estimated to be worth more than $1.5 billion in 2014 globally according to Juniper Research.
According to the ‘Connected Life Report’ conducted by market research firm Nielsen, 70 percent of consumers are aware of wearables and 15 percent currently use one.
Even though demand for wearables will likely spike in the GCC and MENA regions, the pace may be slower. According to a report by Deloitte, some of the factors that hinder adoption in the Middle East include high prices, underdeveloped Internet and telecommunications infrastructure, and stricter regulation from authorities.
But the same report also notes that Arab youth are early technology adopters and will drive the demand for exciting technology products. Deloitte says the GCC countries will lead the way because of their strong mobile and