Left to Right: Kenneth A Himmel, Khalid Al Tayer, CEO Retail, Al Tayer Group, Terry Lundgren, Macy’s Inc Chairman and CEO, and Dr Karim El Solh-Gulf Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The first Macy’s - the iconic department store - outside the US will open at Abu Dhabi’s Al Maryah Central in 2018 and alongside the second Bloomingdale’s outlet in the UAE, according to a top official at Al Tayer Group, the licence holder.

The first Bloomingdale’s, located at The Dubai Mall, will mark its fifth anniversary next February. Both Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s - which is more upscale in its merchandising mix - are owned by Ohio-headquartered Macy’s Inc.

The Abu Dhabi presence was confirmed following an agreement signed by Al Tayer Group with Gulf Related, the developer of the $1 billion Al Maryah Central, which will create 2.3 million square feet of new retail capacity in Abu Dhabi. Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s will have anchor roles when they open and are to take up floor levels apiece. (Al Maryah Central will have a linkage to The Galleria, now established as the pre-eminent retail and leisure destination in Abu Dhabi.)

“We did consider all options that were available in Abu Dhabi, but what clinched the decision was the attractiveness of Al Maryah Island itself,” said Khalid Al Tayer, CEO – Retail, Al Tayer Group. “The overall project answers the description of a very high-end development that will be an attractive destination for tourists and residents alike. We definitely took the long-term view.

“Also, with Al Maryah Central, there was an opportunity to create and integrate the design for Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s right at the early stage of the mall. The three stakeholders [Macy’s Inc, Gulf Related and Al Tayer Group] came together two years ago to work on the overall package. How these stores fit into Al Maryah Central is seamless and not an afterthought.”

There is no stinting on the space they will take up, Macy’s getting 205,000 square feet and Bloomingdale’s 230,000 square feet.

On whether having both stores under the same roof wasn’t excessive, Al Tayer said: “With Bloomingdale’s it is always going to be an upscale positioning, while Macy’s is much more of a lifestyle offering targeted at a wider segment. In the US, it’s not unusual to have them both at the same mall.

“It’s proven they can coexist in the same environment. Both are powerful but different brands that appeal to different customer segments.”

In a statement, Terry Lundgren, Chairman and CEO of Macy’s Inc, said: “Al Maryah Central provides an outstanding opportunity to introduce Macy’s to customers who live and work in the booming UAE market, as well as to visitors who come from around the world for events, business and holidays.

“Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s already are well known globally... they are destinations for international tourists to the United States and play an important role in popular culture domestically and globally.”

Ever since Bloomingdale’s opened in Dubai, there was constant speculation that a Macy’s would follow in short order. It was also assumed that the first opening would happen in Dubai.

According to Al Tayer, “Abu Dhabi has been elevating its offerings to tourists with multiple initiatives related to both lifestyle and culture. It’s going to be a global retail destination of its own.

“We are still open to opportunities elsewhere and each prospect will be taken up on its own merit. But these have to align with the brand equity of our partners and ensure there’s success for all stakeholders. That’s vital.”

Al Tayer dismissed suggestions that the payback period for large department stores is taking longer these days. “I cannot take a wider view for department store operators across the world. But I can say that our group has been quite successful in this segment. Customers have really been attracted to our department stores for the range of products and services that are on offer. It’s really worked well for us and we are delighted to be the leading upscale department store operator in the region.”

Apart from Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, Al Tayer Group also operates the UK’s Harvey Nichols store at Mall of the Emirates.

At Al Maryah Central, the Group will have more than 20 outlets, including upscale F&B brands, which will take up a combined 502,000 square feet of space. That equates to a third of the mall’s overall leasable space.

“Al Maryah Island is fast becoming the go-to destination for the lifestyle and retail demands of the capital and the preferred location for many new retailers,” said Dr Karim Al Solh, CEO of Gulf Capital and Co-Managing Partner of Gulf Related. “Located at the centre of Al Maryah Island, and acting as a meeting point for old and new Abu Dhabi, Al Maryah Central will be naturally integrated into the heart of the community.”