Dubai, UAE: Paper industry and Gift and lifestyle experts will gather in Dubai this month to redefine the sector’s future at the Hub Forum’s second edition, the region’s leading platform to identify a transformative pathway for an industry now faced with transformative consumer demands and distribution channels.
After a successful first running, The Hub Forum is returning to Gifts & Lifestyle Middle East and Paperworld Middle East, the annual co-located shows from Messe Frankfurt Middle East which will run at the Dubai World Trade Centre from November 15-17.
At the Forum some of the industry’s most renowned players will examine the sector’s challenges and opportunities. High on the Hub Forum agenda will be product and consumer sentiment analysis, the potential of e-commerce, and the rapidly emerging digital and sustainable trends which are impacting the paper, stationery, office supply and gift industries.
The Forum returns at a pivotal time for an industry which is at the very heart of the Middle East’s lucrative gift-giving culture and is acknowledged as a key driver of corporate and personal relationships.
“There are credible indications that the Middle East will retain its celebrated cultural DNA of gift-giving but that consumer decision making and purchasing behaviour is changing rapidly,” said Syed Ali Akbar, Show Director Paperworld Middle East, and Gifts & Lifestyle Middle East. “The industry successes of the future will be those who have recognised this transformation, adapted products and distribution channels accordingly and with The Hub Forum we are providing the insights they need on which to formulate their production and operational strategies.”
The industry is now faced with challenges of meeting mounting consumer demand for sustainable gifts and for the convenience of online ordering and delivery. A report from the events official research partner, 6Wreseach, has singled out the UAE online gifting market for annual compound growth of 16.7% to 2028.
The growth of the e-commerce sector combined with offers and discounts have increased the demand for continuous gifts supply, according to the report. Akbar continues, “The rich heritage gifting culture in the Arab region is growing rapidly which is boosting the demand for gifts. Additionally, the MICE sector is growing on the back of increasing tourism in the UAE which will further accelerate demand for the region’s online gift market.”
With tourism expansion on the economic diversification agendas of other nations across the region, including Saudi Arabia which is investing in major new destination development and Qatar, which is establishing itself as a host for world-class international sporting, business and leisure events, the potential for souvenir gifts is rising.
As tourism ambitions grow, so too does the region’s expanding hospitality sector. Saudi Arabia, for instance, aims to deliver 310,000 completed hotel rooms in the kingdom by 2030. This sector expansion is expected to further fuel gifting demand though that is likely to undergo an era of transformation focussed increasingly on experiences based on products.
A recent survey on Holiday Shopping Trends by digital experience management software company Sitecore shows 75% of Middle East residents aged between 25 and 34 agree that they “don’t need any more stuff and would prefer experience-based gifts.”
“Industry intel shows clearly that producers will now have to come up with winning experiences that satisfy the evolving tastes and demands of consumers,” added Akbar. “This could lead to major collaboration tie-ups between product developers and experience retailers who curate gifts which combine memorable experiences based around product development and purchasing.”
The survey also pointed to an emerging sentiment among Middle East retailers to support more locally owned businesses. “This is in line with global trends and brings with it huge new business opportunities for local tie-ups for overseas producers particularly with survey feedback that 70% of consumers will pay more for locally made gifts,” added Akbar.
Against this background, cross-border co-operation is a highly anticipated outcome of this year’s Gifts & Lifestyle Middle East. The show’s Business Match-Making tool is enhancing the collaboration process.
“We instigated this business match-making initiative to bring producers and buyers and future partners together,” explained Akbar. “It means exhibitors can book appointments with their preferred potential partners even before they arrive at the show, saving them valuable time and expediting business development discussions.
“The opportunities are two-way. Local producers can find partners for overseas business development while our overseas exhibitors can expand their horizons within the Middle East.”
And with exhibitors from more than 20 countries and an anticipated trade visitor turnout of literally thousands of retailers, wholesalers, distributors and manufacturers, the field for new business development at Gifts & Lifestyle Middle East is wide open. ZimTrade, for instance, the organising body charged with energising Zimbabwe’s export growth, has weighed into the show as its country pavilion partner while the exhibitor floor will be packed with artisans, suppliers and manufacturers from Italy, South Africa, Greece, India, Spain, and Türkiye among the exhibitor line-ups.
While Gifts & Lifestyle Middle East will focus on products and opportunities in the dining, gifting and lifestyle segments, its co-location alongside Paperworld Middle East, expands business horizons. “It gives visiting industry players the chance to take in the full spectrum of gift and lifestyle products in a single visit,” said Akbar.
Paperworld Middle East will also further enhance the industry’s knowledge-building potential by hosting artistry workshops and the Project Sustainability feature where environmentally friendly products from exhibitors will be on show alongside their ‘eco-credentials.’
“We have looked at the industry’s emerging trends and endeavoured to address them with features which will keep the sector fully apprised of developments which will hallmark its future,” said Akbar. “In essence these two co-located shows will have the multi-faceted gift sector all wrapped up.”