The Fastest-Growing & Declining Categories in UAE’s e-commerce, by PiWheel’s Maher Ghazal

By Maher Ghazal, Chief Growth Officer at PiWheel.

January 2021 vs January 2022

A few months ago, I was reading a meme that asked, who was responsible for our digital transformation? The CEO, CTO or Covid-19. This got me thinking, the pandemic did not only affect the way we interact with one another, the way we work, and where we purchase products from, it has also affected the type of products we purchase. Brands like Samsung have realized the importance of these changes in our behaviours as their SVP announced how their phones are adapting to a pandemic world from an interface, functionality, and even aesthetics point of view.

We found that there was no single body that pulled together data of the top growing and declining e-commerce categories to deliver a holistic view of the rapidly evolving e-commerce in the UAE. So, we set out to gather this information via our tools and provide some interesting insights about consumer behavioural changes.

Our data revealed a lot of interesting insights. To start, our analysis unsurprisingly shows that UAE’s e-commerce sales grew at 35% in 2021. This is the highest in the MENA region. While diving into it, we also had to consider the retail disruptions happening globally. From the global shipping backup issues that disrupted supply chains, to the great resign affecting fulfilment, to the chip shortage. All these factors were evident when we investigated pricing and availability, however, that’s a topic for another article. For now, let us have a look at the top 50 fastest growing and declining categories in addition to the top shakers.

Top Fastest-Growing Categories

UAE’s fastest-growing categories show a blend of consumer shopping trends. We can see Snack Foods is the top category as people got accustomed to the convenience of ordering them online. Accessibility and convenience are now essential mainstays. We also observed that snacks are a popular gifting item, especially during Ramadan, surging the Snack Food Gifts category sales by +184%.

Another interesting insight was the growth in pet-related categories. From Bird Toys to Flea & Tick Control, Cat & Dog Food, and Pet Apparel, these categories witnessed positive growth. The growth was a result of the increase in pet ownership during the first phase of the pandemic as people spent more time at home and wanted company. Unlike board games, the pet-related categories are still growing even though people started going out more in 2021.

Interesting new entrants to the top categories were the automotive oil, parts, and accessories. These categories have grown by more than 140% due to the convenience of researching and comparing products online.

The consumer electronics is the most popular category in the UAE. While most of the electronic categories didn’t make up to the top 100 for their % growth but they surely were the shakers of UAE e-commerce in 2021 for their sales.

Top Fastest Declining Categories

As we dug deeper into the UAE’s fastest declining categories, we realized that it could be a misleading title. Many categories listed here such as bread makers, home games, and pool cleaning supplies, saw unprecedented growth in 2020 when people were locked in, and now are going back to their expected size. Others such as yoga and Pilates equipment have seen a general decrease on marketplaces, partly due to the fact the increased 2020 purchases and partly due to direct-to-consumer websites that cater specifically to these categories.

Closing statement:
Consumer trends are regularly changing and evident through their purchase behaviours. While this report aggregates the data annually, it is important for brands to look at weekly or monthly data to understand current trends and plan accordingly.