Nahkeel mall
People seen at the opening day of Nakheel Mall in Palm Jumeirah, Dubai. 28th November 2019. Image Credit: Photo: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

By Manoj Nair, Associate Editor

Dubai: The Palm’s 78,000 residents finally get to have a focal point for their shopping and leisure needs. The Nakheel Mall - all of 1.1 million square feet in leasable area and spread across 5 levels - officially opened its doors on Thursday, timed ahead of the all-important UAE National Day week and the subsequent peak season for the city’s retail and hospitality sectors.

And by mid next year, the Mall will have access to more residents and visitors, when the adjacent Palm Tower opens with its 300+ apartments and 290 plus hotel rooms.

The Nakheel Mall, which cost Dh1 billion plus to build, features more than 300 outlets, including a few that are brand new to the local marketplace. This is also Dubai’s single biggest retail launch this year, and comes as Nakheel looks to ramp up its retail/F&B portfolio in the coming months. There will be the Deira Islands Night Souk, the Al Khail Avenue, and the niche Palm West Beach.

Over the last three years, Nakheel has been going the extra mile to build up its retail and hospitality interests to ensure steady growth on the rental income side. (This is a strategy it is following even on the residential side as well, an with some notable success too.)

Mega is in

It is pure coincidence that the Nakheel Mall opened in a week when Dubai/UAE retail sector is in hyper-drive with the end of November “Black Friday” promotional blitz. Whatever be the case, it reiterates that in Dubai/UAE, physical retail will remain a dominant factor.

UAE retail has had “three major additions in the year-to-date, with the Galleria in Abu Dhabi, Nakheel Mall, and the Zabeel extension at The Dubai Mall,” according to a research spokesperson aT JLL. “The Dragon Mart expansion were also delivered.

“All other (ongoing) mall projects are likely to be delivered in 2020. including the Dubai Hills (Emaar) and Night Souk (Nakheel).”

Waitrose and more

The UK supermarket brand Waitrose has picked up more than 24,000 square feet at Nakheel Mall. “This will be our first UAE store that’s completely aligned with the UK operations in terms of look, feel… and name,” said Morne Thys Fourie, General Manager - Marketing at Spinneys Dubai, which has the franchise rights for Waitrose in the UAE.

“We have introduced the “Waitrose & Partners” concept, following the Waitrose acquisition by John Lewis Partnership. This will be rolled out at our other Waitrose outlets in the UAE, including Dubai Mall.” (It was just recently that Waitrose made a move into Abu Dhabi through a presence at Galleria.) “Between the Spinneys outlet at the Palm Golden Mile and, now, Waitrose at Nakheel Mall, we will have the Palm covered. The UAE is the only place outside of the UK where there are free standing Waitrose outlets.” (Incidentally, the local entity is considering introducing an online aspect at its Palm store in the near future, exclusively for residents on the island.)

2020 - a crunch year

Industry sources say the Nakheel Mall could well be Dubai’s last big retail launch before Expo 2020 Dubai. Some of the other ongoing projects are still very much in their development phase, and may find it difficult to be ready in time for the event’s opening date. But there are a handful of community and slightly bigger retail destinations that should be ready, including the Dubai Hills mall. “It would also give time for developers to take a pause and consider what’s the best fit for the city going forward,” said a retailer. “The city already has the shopping, leisure and entertainment attractions in place to take care of all demand for Expo 2020 Dubai and beyond. The opening of Nakheel Mall just re-affirms that.”