The snow park at Reem Mall covers more than 9,000 square meters and acts as very much an anchor destination in itself. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Abu Dhabi’s Reem Mall has got lots of snow. It’s got private screening rooms at the cinemas. And is part of a free zone.

That’s right, one of Abu Dhabi’s leading shopping and entertainment destinations has got the free zone status after Reem Island became part of the ADGM (Abu Dhabi Global Market) eco-system, Abu Dhabi’s financial hub. The latter took over Reem Island as part of an ambitious expansion program in May 2023, as part of which businesses based on the island could opt for a free zone license or choose to go for a mainland one.

Reem Mall’s tenants too will go through the process. “By end of this year, anybody operating on Reem Island comes under ADGM jurisdiction, ourselves included,” said Bruce von Kaufmann, Mall Director of Reem Mall. “So, we are busy transitioning our economic license from the mainland to ADGM.

“Our retailers operating in the mall would do the same. ADGM is helping everyone through the process – but the deadline for that is end of this year.”

An 8.8 square kilometer destination, Reem Island features office and residential high-rises as well as hotels and extensive lifestyle options. It remains one of the most popular choices for new businesses and residents landing in Abu Dhabi.

Reem Mall, which went through the formal opening late last month, has been getting its own high numbers in terms of retailers and visitors, along with the other attraction Abu Dhabi has seen in recent times, The Galleria on Al Maryah Island.

Snow helps

“Our biggest anchor in terms of driving footfall and creating interest is obviously our snow park,” said von Kaufmann. “When it occupies 9,000 square meters of space, it can’t be anything else. The experience is quite different to what visitors would at Ski Dubai and its ski slope.

“What we have is a family park with 20 rides and attractions. That in itself differentiates us from everybody else, particularly in the leisure space.”

Whether it’s Abu Dhabi, Dubai and other emirates, the retail and entertainment sector has reinvented itself in the post-Covid era. So much so, physical retail remains an integral part of UAE residents’ choices of where they spend their time. And how they do it.

Reem Mall’s retail mix

Reem Mall stretches over 186,000 square meters of gross leasable area, taking in more than 400 retail stores and 80 F&B outlets. A $1.3 billion investment, it is managed by Al Farwaniya Property Developments, a partnership between Kuwait’s Agility Global, United Projects for Aviation Services Company (UPAC), and National Real Estate Company (NREC).

“The project took longer because you had the impact of Covid and so on, with the actual build finishing in 2022,” said von Kaufmann. “Carrefour opened as the initial tenant and the rest of the mall opened in February 2023.

“We were always meant to be a family-orientated destination, with shoppers looking to our high-street fashion brands or even bridge brands. But food and leisure too was always going to be a big part of our mix, and that’s what our leasing has focused on.

“We are currently at 60 per cent in terms of number of retail units trading and 80-85 per cent when including the leased (but who haven’t opened as of now). We are trying to get the trading and leased to up in the high 90 per cent by end 2025.”