Dubai: At one of Dubai’s newest shopping destinations, a feel of the past is slowly being introduced into the mix. The Gold Souk Extension in Deira will soon have dedicated spots centred around two other staples from what would make a typical Arabic bazaar - silver and perfumes.
For Ithra Dubai, the Dubai government-owned master-developer behind the Gold Souk Extension, adding silver and fragrances was a no-brainer. It’s just under a year that the destination opened, hosting the biggest names in local and international gold and diamond jewellery retailers. During this period, Gold Souk Extension has emerged as a top choice for tourists - and for resident shoppers interested in the yellow metal’s shine.
The same interest, a top official at Ithra Dubai said, would naturally flow in for silver and perfumes too.
Lachlan Gyde, Executive Director - Asset Management of Ithra Dubai, however, makes a point that the new additions have not been made with an eye on what tourist shoppers might like.
“It was never the plan to just focus on one category,” said Hyde. “What we did with the Gold Souk Ext. was create one of the best - if not the best - shopping experience in Deira. We have achieved that, and now we want to bring in new elements.
“Retail markets move based on customer needs evolving. Especially with retail, the primary market is always about meeting the needs of residents first. It’s only later that the destination starts appealing to outsiders too.”
A dedicated plaza - the Moza - has been set aside for silver and fragrances. The leasing process has been on for ‘four-to-five months’ and the first of these outlets will open shortly. Those in the silver trade need to focus exclusively on the metal and should not offer a hybrid merchandise with gold or other precious stones as part of it.
According to gold and jewellery sources, the new Souk Ext. has been attracting a newer and bigger spending shopper to the stores. “These are shoppers who wanted to look at gold or jewellery in a new destination in Dubai - beyond the old Souk or the shopping mall,” said a retailer. “There are more MENA Arabs we are seeing at these stores, and the impression in the first 12 months is that younger buyers too are landing up. Average spend is also higher at the Gold Souk Ext., based on retailer feedback.
The addition of cinema will bring in nine screens and about 1,000 seats. The operator will be an 'international name'.
Foundation laid for steady expansion
All of which sets up the destination to welcome silver and fragrance retailers - and shoppers interested in these wares. “Going forward, there will be an entertainment ‘district’, and we will soon name an international cinema operator as partner,” said Hyde. “Again, all these make sense because we want this to be tailored to families, many of whom have and will take up residence at the 600-700 apartments that form part of the Deira Enrichment Project.”
The mid-rise apartment buildings from Ithra Dubai are another recent addition to the wider destination, and also given a major facelift to one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods. (Two-bedroom units there are carrying rentals of Dh75,000 plus, and with two-month rent-free thrown in on some.)
Why silver and fragrances will fit
If gold was the foundation for the new souk, silver and fragrances will fit right in the new souq, according to Gyde. “Both categories represent existing businesses in the wider Deira area,” he added. “And successful categories for decades. So, at the Ext., we are offering these retailers at option to offer a new experience at a destination that’s better marketed and managed.
“On our part, it was important to dedicate certain areas for the new categories, create a precinct feel to the shopping - but within a controlled environment.
“This was not a decision taken in a hurry. We kept listening to what our shop owners wanted by way of new offerings. And customers are talking to us all the time. Silver and fragrance district evolved from such customer wants.”
But there will be no addition of spices retailing. Sure, spices are part of the canvas at any Arabic souk, but at the Gold Souk Ext., it will be metals and perfumes. And a lot of entertainment...
“Our gold and jewellery operators have done a great job in building this destination,” said Gyde. “We are yet to do a big launch, but the Eid promotions we had brought in tens of millions of dollars into the precinct in those 2-3 weeks.
“What we do best is enhance the overall feel of Deira - there is no old and new to this. At the Gold Souk Ext., we are doing just that.”