DOHA, Qatar — The Hamad International Airport here is lavish and vast, although not as big as the nearby Dubai International Airport. But it’s clear that for millions of Gulf consumers who are accustomed to luxury shopping at its best, size doesn’t really matter. It’s quality and class.
While the immense Terminal 3 at Dubai International Airport contains primarily large duty-free shops with only a few stand-alone stores for top brands such as Chanel, Christian Dior, Giorgio Armani, Calvin Klein, Hermès and Ralph Lauren, the Hamad Airport has been opening one stand-alone store after another.
Hamad also has its share of Godiva chocolate stores and electronics boutiques as well as Ferrari racing cars resting on pedestals. But the emphasis is on major fashion brands. Stand-alone stores include spaces for Bally, Michael Kors, Bulgari, Hermès, Chanel, Burberry and Hugo Boss.
Some say the prices at the Hamad International Airport are much higher than those in Japan, Europe and the U.S.
Hana Ito, who is from Japan but works as a hotel manager in Dubai, was window-shopping in front of the Burberry shop. “The Burberry boutique at the Hamad airport is carrying the latest design. However, I shop for Burberry products online, buying directly from London, and also at a duty-free shop at the Schiphol Amsterdam Airport. Similar products at Hamad airport cost about 30 percent more,” she said.
Cosmetics and perfumes are competitively priced, however, and the range of products is extensive. Almost all leading fragrance brands are represented, from Gucci to Chanel, as well as Escada, Fendi and Trussardi.
The opening of the Hamad airport was delayed by five years, but it is home to one of only three, according to Skytrax, “five-star airlines” — Qatar Airways. (The other two are Singapore Airlines, based in Singapore, and Cathay Pacific, operating from Hong Kong.) It also has become the hub in the Arab region for the “One World Alliance,” a global team of airlines comprising several major international carriers, including Cathay Pacific, American Airlines, British Airways and Japan Airlines.
By this past fall, almost all retail spaces at the airport were taken by top brands. While some major brands have dedicated boutiques, others, such as MCM, Escada, Furla, Etienne Aigner and DKNY, are clustered in central shopping areas.
“First- and business-class lounges have already opened their doors,” explained a spokeswoman for the first-class service booth. “Now comes the turn for luxury boutiques; they have to finish filling a few empty spaces. We expect this to be one of the major and luxury hubs in the region — most likely better than Dubai.”