STOCK Dubai Outlet Mall
The Dubai Outlet Mall's latest expansion will raise built-up area to around 4 million square feet. But the Al Ahli Group intends to take a non-conventional approach to it all. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: How will a future mall in Dubai feel and look different? The owner and operator of Dubai Outlet Mall has a plan – bring a farmer’s market and a flea market into the mix.

Mohammed Nasser Khammas, CEO of Al Ahli Group and the name behind DOM is ready to take up those plans. In a third round of expansion, planned for the near future, both the farmer’s and flea markets will have their due places assigned alongside the wider mall expansion.

“Because shoppers are really getting serious about ‘social retailing’, shopping destinations have to do their part,” said Khammas. “There’s nothing that suggests a flea market selling secondhand goods can only be built at remote locations. A mall can be just as good – and we have the space to make it happen.

“There are around 20,000 UAE Nationals who have in recent times moved into new homes in and around the Mall, and that’s not even counting those who are residents of Dubailand. I believe now would be the right time to think different.” - Mohammed Nasser Khammas Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai does have its share of flea markets, drawing in ample shoppers looking for a different sort of experience. These markets are usually centred in and around communities, which is why Khammas makes the pointed reference to the expanding resident base near DOM.

Farmers’ market

The other deviation from a typical mall would be to serve up a farmers’ market. Again, this is about trying to link up to a retail trend that’s taken deep roots since the pandemic – of shoppers wanting to try locally grown produce, and preferably of the organic variety.

According to Khammas, launching a farmers’ market mall-side requires a clear handling of the logistics and without too much of disruption happening to the flow of the usual shopper traffic. (Also, some of the practices that hypermarket operators use with their own expanding range of fresh produce will come in handy.)

Whatever be the case, mall retail in Dubai will start wearing a completely different look.

Midst of a major expansion

DOM, which opened in 2007, is putting the finishing touches to its Phase 2 expansion, which will raise overall area to ‘just under 4 million square feet’. And this would make it the biggest outlet mall in the world.

“We did take our time on the expansion plans – we had to because the ‘outlet mall’ concept was totally foreign to this part of the world when we opened 2007,” said Khammas, who apart from his core business interests is also a full-on follower of the Marvel universe and of ComicCon. (His Marvel associated collection would trigger a sense of awe.)

“So, through the years, we offered the proof-of-concept on how an outlet mall can be part of the Dubai retail scene. There was the 2008-09 Global Financial Crisis and other mini shocks – but right through we kept having more people visiting. That meant we had the numbers to justify the current expansion.”

Leasing is progressing for the new space and should be completed soon enough, according to the CEO. On whether entertainment and leisure would take up a bit of space in the expansion, he said: “We have had this attached 1.2 million multi-purpose outdoor arena for years now, and which has headlined acts from a who’s who of celebrities, including some of the K-Pop gigs more recently. That does take care of the entertainment side, if you ask me.

“What we will have is a new movie theatre for premieres and which can also host grand galas. That would be a first in many ways – in all there will be 14 cinema screens with a combined seating capacity just short of 4,000. I think by Q1-2023, when the next expansion opens, we will have got all the elements ready.”

And then wait for the farmers’ and flea markets…