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Coming soon: shops at 100 Dubai bus stops

You can cool down, top up your phone credit or buy lunch at bus shelters across the city

  • RTA smart bus shelter in Jumeirah which provides retail facilities. Apart from F&B products, these locations Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
  • Passengers sitting inside an airconditioned bus shelter in Karama. These bus shelters are encouraging people tImage Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
  • Bus shelters have prominently displayed posters to let commuters know about acceptableand unacceptable behavImage Credit: Arshad Ali/Gulf News
Gulf News

Dubai: How about some on-the-go shopping in Dubai? Just head for a bus stop near you.

Retailers are taking their brand offerings where prospective shoppers are most likely to be on the move or — at best — remaining still for a matter of minutes. But even that time and space can come in handy, as the options opening up at the city’s bus stops testify.

Apart from F&B products, these locations could soon start offering value-add services such as tickets to the movies and events as well as registering for SIM cards.

“Over 100,000 transactions are estimated to take place daily once all 100 locations have product or service kiosks,” said Rohit Dalmia, Managing Director of Smart Shelter, which has entered an alliance with RTA and Right Angle Media for the counters. (The average size is 2m x 2m.)

“The Smart Shelters are ideal for small-ticket products, especially on-the-go products and widely used courier and repairing services,” said Dalmia. “We agree joint ventures and partnerships with brands — it’s not a lease/sublease model.

“We tie up with existing brands to represent them. Alternatively, unknown brands today tie up with us to give them access to this retail platform (and gradually become a brand, given the visibility at these outlets) either on a fixed-fee operating model or revenue-share business model. This varies greatly brand-to-brand. In any and all circumstances, we remain the primary operators.”

Dubai’s retail space, clearly, is growing beyond the giant malls. In recent years, community/neighbourhood shopping centres have thrived, while retail-cum-leisure locations such as The Walk and The Beach pack in heavy visitor traffic. To that mix has been added City Walk and Boxpark, with their own dedicated following.

But the Smart Shelter at the bus stops and the many retail options lined up at the Metro stations have managed to open up shopping possibilities where none existed in the past.

“We were among the first to book locations in metro stations,” said Zain Hoffman, Head of Retail Division at Big Brands. “The growth (since) has been in line with our business plan. We consciously selected metro stations due to the sustainability of having stores there.” (Its next store is to open at the Al Rigga station — “We have a large Asian community that buys from our store ... we think it wise to be present in locations that have a huge number of Asian expats.”

The push towards bus shelters and metro locations is part of the shopper getting comfortable with “convenience shopping”. The trips to the hypermarkets are getting to be more once-a-week or fortnight, while the day-to-day needs are met through strategically placed smaller outlets. Today’s shopper wants the entire experience to come to him or her.

“All Smart Shelters are currently located in very dense areas,” said Dalmia. “Three factors were considered when selecting the locations: 1. high commuter footfall; 2. dense population to maximise the pedestrian footfall; and 3. nearby residential neighbourhoods to maximise the potential of a 24-hour operation.

“We are very different from the metro retail model. Firstly, in the metro, the average commuter waiting time is about three minutes; at Smart Shelters it’s about 15. Secondly, in the metro, no retail is permitted at the train platform itself, but the shelters are the waiting platform.”

For the Smart Shelter, the launch costs tend to be in the range of Dh35,000, with Dalmia projecting a payback period of three to six months. “Each shelter is independently branded, although the product range inside can comprise several brands,” he added.