Dubai: Dubai’s latest mega gold and jewellery destination is getting ready, with the first set of retailers opening this month. Malabar Gold & Diamonds, the Indian retailer, will have three stores at the ‘Gold Souk Extension’, one of which – at just under 5,000 square feet - will be its biggest in the Gulf.
“We are back in expansion mode in the UAE after two years, and the best place to start will be Dubai’s latest attraction for the gold trade,” said Abdul Salam K.P., Vice-Chairman. “We had only two openings in Dubai last year, but those were to compensate for some that were shuttered after COVID-19 struck.”
The Gold Souk Extension is taking shape on the opposite side of the historic Deira Gold Souq, which has been the heart and soul of trade in the yellow metal and other precious stones. The Extension is overseen by the Dubai government-owned developer Ithra, and there will be about 200 new stores ready to open in Phase 1.
Apart from the stores, there will be offices and safe-houses to service all of the needs of the precious metals trade.
Ithra is transforming an entire swathe of Deira either side of the Hyatt hotel as part of the wider transformation of Dubai’s legacy neighbourhood. This has seen the creation of the Deira Waterfront, the fruits, veggies and fish marketplace, residential buildings, and, now, the Gold Souk Extension.
A new look
“The Extension brings a 21st century retail atmosphere to Dubai’s gold retail business,” said Salam. “We will have the three Malabar stores open simultaneously this month and part of a $100 million new store rollout we have across our network in January. “This means new ones in India and some of our key overseas markets. We are back to full expansion mode across geographies now.”
The UAE gold and jewellery retail trade had a strong finish to 2021, with tourists making a strong return to the stores. Gold prices too remained stable at around the $1,800 an ounce mark for the better part of this period. (Even the latest increase to $1,825 levels at the start of the year has been pared down to $1,804. Retailers reckon that this is a price level shoppers – domestic and tourist – are comfortable with.)
Going ‘omni’ soon
Malabar will be introducing its ‘omni-channel’ sales channel within the next two to three months across all of its network. A model is being worked on with Deloitte, the consultancy, and will see shoppers search online at Malabar’s jewellery collections in any of its worldwide stores and have that particular piece delivered to them.
Gold retailers had been experimenting with online ways since Covid burst on the retail scene. Some of the bigger names had introduced AR (augmented reality) displays at their flagship stores, whereby a shopper could ‘try out’ a piece of jewellery on them from the confines of their homes.
“We did think of online channels, but it’s obvious that with jewellery people need to have some touch and feel to decide,” said Salam. “Omni-channel is thus the best option for both us as a retailer and shoppers. They decide where to buy from and, just as important, whether to pick it up themselves or have the piece delivered.
“Whether a shopper is in the UAE or in India, omni-channel is an option they can soon try out at Malabar.”