Through Qatar National Vision 2030, Qatar has looked to diversify its economy away from oil and gas and develop new income streams, particularly in the service sector. This diversification effort culminated in the hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which demonstrated Qatar’s advancements in infrastructure and its ability to organise global events. At the same time, it catalysed growth in the retail sector by boosting tourism and consumer spending.

In the wake of the global sporting event, Qatar’s economy started to normalise, with real GDP growth for 2023 estimated at 1.6% by the IMF, and projected to rise to 1.9% in 2024. Looking ahead, Qatar’s retail sector is expected to maintain its positive momentum, aided by moderating inflation, low unemployment and the high purchasing power of the population. Although expansion in the tourism sector also has a positive impact on consumer spending, Qatar’s retail sector enjoys solid foundations for growth from domestic consumers.

Structure & Oversight

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI) is the major government entity overseeing the sector. The retail-related responsibilities of MoCI include issuing business licences, enforcing commercial regulations, inspecting commercial properties, safeguarding consumers’ rights and resolving disputes. Another ministry with a key oversight role in retail is the Ministry of Communications and IT, which governs e-commerce under Law No. 16 of 2010. Elsewhere, the Qatar General Authority of Customs enforces the regulations for imports and exports and ensures that all consumer goods entering or leaving the country have followed the correct procedures, helping to ensure that the retail market remains fair and competitive.

Efforts to support the growth of the retail sector are undertaken by Qatar Development Bank (QDB), which is focused on developing the capacity of entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across all industries. According to QDB, the trading sector – which includes both retail and wholesale enterprises – constitutes a relative majority of the SMEs operating in Qatar. QDB offers a variety of programmes aimed at fostering their growth, including the Al Dhameen credit guarantee programme, which is designed to encourage entrepreneurship, support the expansion of businesses and provide access to financial resources.

Size & Performance

Qatar’s robust economy supports stable growth in the retail sector due to the relatively large volume of disposable household income, which analytics firm Statista projected would increase by 11% from $90.4bn in 2023 to $95.2bn in 2024. This economic expansion is expected to support an increase in consumer spending, which is estimated will reach $73.9bn in 2024, up from $53.9bn in 2021 and $70.9bn in 2022.

With a total population of 3.1m as of January 2024, of which around 13% are Qatari citizens, the retail sector serves a diverse market. “The population in GCC countries, including Qatar, is composed of many nationalities,” Malcolm Jordan, CEO of Baladna, told OBG. “To successfully cater to the local market, consumer goods producers must maintain a diversified range of offerings and anticipate emerging trends.”

Qatar has a strong mall culture, with shopping and dining in air-conditioned malls viewed as a major leisure activity, particularly in the summer months when the outside temperatures exceed 40°C. This helps to make the country an attractive destination for luxury international retailers and consumers.

After a slowdown in the sector in 2020-21 when restrictions were placed on retail operations during the Covid-19 pandemic, the industry has experienced a strong recovery with total nominal retail sales reaching QR53.6bn ($14.7bn) in 2022 – the highest figure since 2018. Total retail sales for 2023 were projected to increase by 6% to reach QR57bn ($15.6bn), according to a quarterly report published by real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield Qatar in November 2023. This points towards a resilient and growing sector that has been able to withstand a variety of disruptive events.

The positive sentiment in the retail sector is reflected in the purchasing managers’ index compiled by Qatar Financial Centre, an onshore business and financial zone. The index is based on survey responses from approximately 450 private non-energy sector firms, operating in the retail, wholesale, services, manufacturing and construction sectors. It measures output, orders, employment, delivery times and stock levels to arrive at a single composite index figure, with 50 as the baseline.

The purchasing managers’ index for January 2024 was 50.4, up from 49.8 in December 2023. Indeed, business sentiment in the wholesale and retail sectors was the highest among all non-oil sectors in January 2024, aided by strong demand. January 2024 also marked the 11th consecutive month of expansion in employment, with the manufacturing and wholesale and retail sectors leading the way. Retail demand has remained high despite elevated inflation, with the Qatar Consumer Price Index increasing from 105.4 in January 2023 to 110 in December 2023.

This positive performance in the face of price pressures is a reflection of the strong purchasing power of Qatari residents and visitors. Furthermore, the retail market is relatively stable, as it is less susceptible to the fluctuations in tourism arrivals, owing to the majority of purchases coming from residents with high disposable incomes.

Policy Update

Qatar’s current tax landscape does not include value-added tax (VAT) or sales tax on operations. This presents a distinct advantage for consumers and retail businesses. However, the common VAT agreement signed by all six members of the GCC in 2016 paves the way for the introduction of VAT across the region, at a minimum rate of 5%. The implementation of the agreement would mark a significant change in the Qatari economy and have implications for the retail sector. As of March 2024 Qatar and Kuwait were the only two GCC members yet to introduce VAT, with Saudi Arabia setting a rate of 15%, Bahrain 10%, and both Oman and the UAE 5%.

Introducing VAT would bring a significant source of additional government revenue for Qatar. The new funds from the implementation of the tax agreement could ease budgetary reliance on hydrocarbons revenue and provide a new source of funds to invest in the Qatar National Vision 2030 agenda.

However, there are some concerns in the retail sector that VAT could lead to changes in consumer behaviour. An additional 5% tax on goods and services could lead to consumers becoming more cautious in their spending and prioritise essential goods over non-essentials. The tax could encourage an environment of saving and financial planning, but could also put pressure on retailers to make their prices more competitive. “While Qatar is often perceived as a wealthy country, it is important to recognise that the market is highly price-sensitive. A significant portion of the population prioritises affordability over other factors,” Al Noubay Al Marri, CEO of Widam Food, told OBG.

Retail businesses should generally be able to offset the VAT they incur from purchases from suppliers against the VAT they collect from customers, meaning that the direct impact of VAT should be cost neutral. When VAT is eventually introduced, efforts will be required from MoCI and other relevant authorities to help prepare retail businesses to effectively comply with the regulations.

Retail Space

Qatar’s shopping mall retail segment has gone through a period of significant transformation in recent years. Major mall and retail developments that have opened in recent years include Place Vendôme, the large-scale luxury mall that opened in Lusail City in 2022; Doha Oasis Printemps, the Middle East’s largest luxury department store, which also opened in 2022; and Msheireb Downtown Doha, the retail development which opened in 2021 offering distinct shopping and dining options. With 230,000 sq-metres of gross leasable space, Place Vendôme is the third super-regional mall to open in Qatar after Mall of Qatar and Doha Festival City.

The retail real estate market saw a large increase in the supply of retail space in the years leading up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup. While many of the country’s retail locations have recorded high footfall rates, some have experienced difficulties in attracting their desired traffic. As a result, there has been a gradual decrease in the average retail space rent over recent years, as well as an adjustment to average occupancy rates. Cushman & Wakefield Qatar estimates that the average occupancy rate at the country’s retail malls was around 80% in the third quarter of 2023, with this figure largely unchanged since the first quarter of 2022. Landlords and retail managers have been offering a variety of rent discount-based incentives in order to entice businesses to open at their locations and boost their occupancy rates. Monthly rents for units in Doha’s prime malls averaged between QR200 ($54.90) and QR250 ($68.60) per sq metre, exclusive of service charges, in the third quarter of 2023 while the rate in many secondary malls was typically less than QR200 ($54.90) per sq metre.

Shopping Centres

Qatar had more than 1.7m sq metres of leasable retail floor space in major malls in the third quarter of 2023. Additionally, there were more than 400,000 sq metres of leasable space in outdoor retail and leisure destinations in and around the capital Doha, such as The Pearl, Souq Waqif, Souq Al Wakra, Msheireb Downtown, Katara, Doha Port and Lusail Boulevard. This significant supply of retail space supports the overarching target of making the country an international shopping destination, while highlighting the delicate balancing of supply and demand that is required to ensure that the retail sector remains sustainable in the long term.

One of the ways that Qatar tries to raise awareness of its attractions as a retail destination and boost in-person shopping is through events. Shop Qatar is the country’s largest shopping festival, which has run every year in January since 2017. The festival is organised by Qatar Tourism, the national tourism authority. The eighth edition of the festival in 2024 saw the participation of 13 malls and shopping districts, and featured special competitions and events designed to appeal to a broad range of consumers. It benefitted from an influx of visitors to the country for the AFC Asian Cup football tournament, which took place throughout January.

Food Retail

The imposition of a trade blockade on Qatar by its regional neighbours between 2017 and 2021 proved to be a catalyst to enhance its domestic food production and food security efforts. As a result, supermarkets and food retailers have expanded the ranges of domestically produced food items in their stores. At the end of 2023 Qatar announced its national food security strategy for 2024-30. The strategy looks to boost the self-sufficiency food production rate further through technological advancements and innovations in agriculture.

This builds upon the foundation set by the National Food Security Strategy 2018-23, which placed an emphasis on diversifying trade partners for core commodities by securing multiple trade partners per essential commodity. The strategy also set a 70% self-sufficiency target for a number of vegetables, with producers using hydroponics, greenhouses and other innovative methods in order to boost production. By 2022 Qatar had achieved a self-sufficiency rate of 46% in vegetables and a 100% self-sufficiency rate for fresh milk and poultry.

However, the sustainable success of these strategies may be contingent upon addressing economic disparities within the sector so that the food producers gain more benefits. Producers, wholesalers and customers are the three primary actors in the local food industry, with wholesalers often enjoying greater economic benefits. Support from the Qatari government is seen as a potential way to further support local producers, as well as to promote the purchase of local items over cheaper imports, thereby facilitating the long-term and inclusive growth of the segment in the years ahead.

Supermarkets are the main players in the food retail segment, with major brands established in the country that include domestic chains Al Meera, Al Baladi and Safari, France’s Carrefour and UAE-based LuLu. December 2023 saw the opening of Kuwaitbased City Hypermarkets’ first location in Qatar, as well as Baladi Premium opening the first 24/7 highend grocery store in the country at the Velero Mall in Lusail. In a sign that the supermarket segment is undergoing a period of digital transformation, Al Meera introduced the region’s first smart shopping carts at its Wakrah South branch in January 2024. The carts feature a camera, barcode reader and touch screen, and allow customers to scan their items, eliminating the need for checkout lines.


Beyond malls and supermarkets, one key retail segment with high growth potential is duty-free shopping. Gulf airlines – including Qatar Airways – are well established in the long-haul travel market, offering convenient transit routes between the east and west. Long-haul Qatar Airways flights with stopovers in Doha have helped Hamad International Airport to experience significant growth, with nearly 46m passengers passing through the airport in 2023, an increase of 31% from 35m passengers in 2022 (see Transport chapter).

In line with this, Qatar Duty Free (QDF) recorded a 32% boost in sales in 2023 and a 61% increase since 2019. As well as an increase in footfall and uptick in consumer sentiment in the wake of the pandemic, QDF’s success can be attributed to an effective marketing campaign, an extensive range of products and the development of an immersive luxury experience intended to appeal to a wide array of international customers.

In recognition of these efforts, Hamad International Airport was ranked the world’s best airport for shopping at 2023 Skytrax World Airport Awards. Such accolades help to enhance Qatar’s credentials as an international shopping destination.

Online Shopping

E-commerce has become an increasingly prominent form of shopping in the country in recent years. While Qatar’s mall culture remains strong, the switch to online retail during the pandemic helped acclimatise many consumers to the benefits of e-commerce and digital transactions. According to a 2022 survey by payment card services company Visa, 90% of consumers in Qatar had made a digital payment in the previous month – both online and in-store – with most expressing a strong preference for digital payments over cash.

German e-commerce research platform ECDB has projected e-commerce revenue in Qatar of $418.7m in 2024, with a compound annual growth rate of 8% between 2024 and 2028. According to the platform, hobby and leisure is the largest segment in Qatar’s e-commerce market, accounting for 23.4% of revenue, followed by electronics (22.6%), fashion (17.8%), and furniture and homeware (11.8%).

One of the growing trends in e-commerce is buy now/pay later (BNPL), whereby retailers can offer consumers the option of paying for products in instalments at a later date. To help regulate and facilitate the growth of this segment, the Qatar Central Bank issued BNPL regulations for financial technology firms in August 2023 (see analysis).

Qatar’s burgeoning online shopping ecosystem is also giving rise to new e-commerce start-ups. For example, grocery delivery service company Jeeb launched their app in March 2023, allowing customers to create and upload tailored shopping lists, with preferred brands being picked up at several locations if they are not available at a single shop. The company also offers recipes for meals based on the ingredients in the grocery list.

Experiential Retail

With the growth of e-commerce, physical retail spaces are adapting to maintain the popularity of in-person shopping. One way that this has been done is by providing immersive experiences for customers. The concept of experiential retail combines technology, creative designs and multi-use spaces to enhance the in-store experience. For example, in May 2023 Dubai’s Nakkash Design Studio launched the Magpie jewellery store in Gate Mall, Doha, that has received attention due to the store’s design inspiration, which resembles a bird’s nest. On a larger scale, the West Walk development in Doha blends retail with other leisure and lifestyle experiences to engage visitors and residents. By creating multifunctional spaces that provide a variety of options such as residences, shopping and fine dining in close proximity, Qatar can remain attractive for local and international consumers seeking experiences beyond the online world. As a result, architects and designers in Qatar are important figures in the development of the retail sector.


Qatar is set for stable growth in the retail sector, aided by the support of the government along with high disposable incomes and a growing tourism sector. The continued expansion of the e-commerce market is set to create new growth avenues for retailers, and also push malls and brick-and-mortar stores to develop physical spaces that offer immersive and experiential shopping environments. Meanwhile, the ongoing development of the domestic food industry could allow supermarkets and grocery chains to stock a broader range of products at competitive prices, which should benefit local residents. It remains to be seen what impact the possible introduction of VAT will have on shoppers’ spending habits, but recent evidence suggests that Qatar’s retailers and consumers are both resilient and adaptive to changes.