Ajman: The many outlets are being fitted out round-the-clock ahead of next week's grand opening of the China Mall in Ajman.
Not wanting to miss out on any opportunity, some of the more enterprising shopowners have even started selling from their makeshift premises. Even now, there are many thronging the Ajman Free Zone offices to sign up for a location in the mall.
Any which way one looks at it, there's no denying the China Mall at some point in the near future will emerge as one of Ajman's leading commercial destinations and in its economy as well. But the Ajman authorities are not leaving anything to chance.
And this is where "The Road" — for the mall's promoters there is only one that matters and hence the emphasis — will come into play. This is the one being built adjacent to the mall and which would connect Ajman to the Emirates Road.
"At the rate work is going on, the road could be open in the next six months itself," said Adnan Dahnous, director at the Gulf Chinese Trading Corp., which is the developer of the mall. "That for us will be the game changer when it comes to realising the full potential of China Mall."
With the road opening, in one stroke, the mall would have expanded its catchment area immeasurably. Driving down from Dubai would take less than 30 minutes or so, and also brings it figuratively closer to its target consumers in Sharjah and the other northern emirates. A parking bay for more than 2,000 vehicles will be ready in the next 30 to 45 days.
The more than 1,000 outlets — representing a broad swathe of building materials — that will open in the first phase will certainly agree that the new road represents its lifeline for better things to come. These retailers will be spread out across the four interconnected halls and sell a range of wares of Chinese origin.
The China Mall does not end there. There will be a wholesale component as well for which the Gulf Chinese Trading Corp. is in advanced negotiations with the Chinese provinces of Guangzhou and Shenzhen. The intention is to host furniture companies from these provinces in the five halls set aside for the wholesale trade.
"If all goes according to plan, these will be permanent exhibition centres for the Chinese companies looking to secure more markets in the Middle East and Northern Africa," said Dahnous. "In the Gulf itself, there's a lot of demand that can be met in Kuwait and Qatar, with the latter especially having shortages of construction materials." At an average Dh30,000 a year in rentals, Dahnous believes this will prove a decisive influence in attracting tenants. "The services that we offer are not limited to offering physical space; they can come to us for everything related to the issuing of licences, visas and residency permits," he added.
"We have the full backing of the emirate in this enterprise and we are passing that advantage on to our tenants."
Some of the retailers who were setting up their shops agreed. "The rentals are just right for a business new to this market and most of us are," said one, who declined to be identified. "What we pay as rent will have a telling impact on our profit margins, which is why getting in low is of such a benefit for our future operations here."
The China Mall may well be Ajman's largest development of the year. Upfront investments on developing the location have crossed Dh300 million, and once it reaches full potential would stock goods valued at more than Dh2 billion.
Obviously, comparisons will be drawn towards the Dragon Mart in Dubai, which was launched in 2004. But Dahnous does not want to get into that debate, but did say that there's room to spare for two such mega developments located within an hour's ride of each other. "The feeder markets that we are going after are substantial and the demand from there will only grow," said Dahnous. "It's a project that we have given a lot of thought and not developed in a hurry."
Dahnous is quick to assure that the quality parameter will not be lost sight of, a perennial issue dogging Chinese goods. "Only merchandise that meet the strictest quality benchmarks will be exhibited at China Mall, and as promoters we cannot overlook such a decisive issue," he said. "We are well on top of any issues of quality."
While the China Mall creates an instant platform for Ajman's retail and wholesale sectors, other elements of its economy stand to reap dividends as well. First up would be the property market, which in Ajman had been going through an extended downturn for some time.
All the new businesses that are being set up in China Mall would require apartments for the staff. While there are residential premises located next to the mall itself, these number only 500 rooms. Many multiples of that would be required to cater to the growing community.
According to property market observers, no intimation of such a demand is yet to show up in the market. "It may take another couple of quarters for this to translate into active orders," said one industry observer.
How do you will affect ties between China and the UAE? Do you shop at outlet malls to buy products in bulk? How will this affect your business?