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Never a dull moment in GCC’s mall landscape

New projects are aiming to go big and wide

Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News
Shoppers at Deira CityCentre. Choosing — andretaining — an anchorstore can be a fraughtaffair for mall managements.
Gulf News

Dubai: It is not just new stores and brands that keep getting added to the Gulf’s retail landscape – mall owners are quick on the uptake when it comes to spot – and then bring in – new trends. All of which ensures there is never a dull moment in the mall universe.

And what of the likely new trends that could soon try and pull in more shoppers into the properties? Expanding the entertainment options is a certain premise that all mall managements are working to fine-tune.

“Community-based developments offering a flavour of the Emirati culture will shape up in the years to come,” said Majid Al Ghurair, chairman of Dubai Shopping Malls Group. “Moreover, mall owners will look at ways to create entertainment options that appeal to the family (and) making a novel destination.

“Specialised shopping centres for food and furniture markets will also be introduced to add more value to the shopping experience. While emerging markets remain on the agenda for many, more well-trodden regions are being sought to establish new concepts as their property mix evolves. It is a fact that the one thing that has helped the mall industry in the UAE is its continuous evolution. It has been quick to spot emerging trends in the global marketplace and incorporate them into the formats here.”

Al Ghurair for one does not see the department store format as having had its time under the arc lights and now headed for the exit.

On the contrary, it “has been a proven format and will continue being so even in the future, especially in a market like the UAE where shopping experience and convenience is of utmost importance,” he added.

Sowwah Central

One of the more visually striking developments in the mid-term will be Sowwah Central in Abu Dhabi’s Al Maryah Island, a mixed-use development from Gulf Related which includes a 550,000 square foot retail component in The Galleria at Sowwah Square. The retail cluster is to open in August and what’s more, it will have two international department stores and each set on 210,000 square feet over four levels.

The developer’s intention is to have the highest concentration of luxury retailers in Abu Dhabi.

“Sowwah Central will create a new paradigm in Abu Dhabi through the creation of the region’s premier one-stop destination for retail, leisure and dining,” said Kenneth Himmel, co-managing partner at Gulf Related and president and CEO of Related Urban.

Most of the retail trends will also find a home at the other malls, either open or being developed, in the GCC. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are seeing significant new capacity creation. In the former, the mix of new properties is truly eclectic – from the massive to the no-frills community centres.

At the region’s upscale malls, department stores have the space to manoeuvre in. “Large-scale department stores - Fifty One East, for example - provide a number of great brands which are not available on the Qatar retail scene,” said David Macadam, head of retail at Jones Lang LaSalle. “Department stores in super-regional malls have always been anchors and these are not outdated in the Middle East and North Africa region.

“Anchors such as Bloomingdales provide a variety of brands within the store which appeal to a wide range of customers. These brands within department stores are unique and not found in line shops.”

Within the still evolving mix that is the GCC’s retail space, there are opportunities for global labels to get a foot right through the door. “There are still a number of US and European department stores yet to have a presence in the GCC, so I think we can expect to see some new faces soon,” said Matthew Green of CBRE.