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Malls for the millennials: Dubai shopping a different experience

Khaleej Times logo Khaleej Times 29/03/2018 Rohma Sadaqat
Malls for the millennials: Dubai shopping a different experience © Provided by Khaleej Times Malls for the millennials: Dubai shopping a different experience

Mall developers in Dubai are keen to add to the city's portfolio of upcoming shopping malls with several uniquely-themed malls under construction and in the pipeline.

This includes Cityland Mall, which has been described as the world's first nature inspired shopping centre, and which will feature a Central Park-style botanical garden. Another project by Nakheel that made waves in the industry when it was first announced is Deira Mall, which will be located at Deira Islands, and which will feature a dramatic one-kilometre-long retractable glass atrium. Dubai Holding's Mall of the World, which was announced in 2014, is set to be the world's largest shopping complex and leisure destination upon its completion.

"Dubai is one of the world's fastest growing and most popular tourism destinations, attracting millions of people every year to enjoy a wide spectrum of experiences including those on offer at the city's malls," Omar Khoory, managing director of Nakheel Malls, told Khaleej Times. "Tourists are looking for unique mall experiences, and that means the entertainment, dining and visitor experience has to be original, innovative and memorable."

Nakheel Malls' portfolio includes Ibn Battuta Mall, the world's largest mall themed around the travels of 14th century Moroccan explorer Ibn Battuta, which attracted a record 21 million visitors last year; and Dragon Mart, the largest retail and trading hub for Chinese products outside mainland China. Meanwhile, its upcoming destinations, such as The Pointe and Nakheel Mall, focus on offering residents and tourists a new perspective of Palm Jumeirah.

"Additionally, we have recently awarded a construction contract worth Dh4.2 billion for Deira Mall, which is set to become the biggest mall in the Middle East in terms of leasable space," Khoory revealed.

Another destination that is no stranger to world records and which has put Dubai on the international map is The Dubai Mall by Emaar Malls. Nasser Rafi, chief executive officer of Emaar Malls, talked more about the world's most-visited retail and leisure destination, in light of its recent expansion, and the importance of innovation in the sphere.

"Welcoming hundreds of thousands of spectators daily is the Dubai Fountain set by the Waterfront Promenade of the mall, while the 'Light Up' shows on Burj Khalifa is another must-see attraction in Dubai. The mall also serves as a regional hub for luxury fashion with Fashion Avenue," he noted.

With shopping malls operating in almost every neighbourhood in the city, operators say that it is important for a mall to distinguish itself from its competition, often through its architecture or offerings; and to constantly rejuvenate itself to meet the needs of shoppers.

"Over the past few years we have invested more than Dh1.5 billion into Dubai Festival City Mall and the results in terms of attracting visitors and tourists from around the world have been exceptional," said Steven Cleaver, director of shopping malls at Al Futtaim Group Real Estate.

"A major focus for us has been to create a mall destination that offers more than shopping experiences through dining, entertainment, and creating a place for families and friends to come together."

Ziad Al Tamimi, property manager of Sunset Mall, noted that the mall's uniqueness lies in its distinctive glass architecture, as well as its location on Jumeirah beach road, close to Kite Beach, which is a hub for beachgoers and fitness aficionados. "To convert footfall into sales, malls in Dubai offer attractive shopping promotions and also product launches and events that are exclusive to Dubai."

Similarly, Fuad Mansoor Sharaf, managing director for Majid Al Futtaim Properties - Shopping Malls, spoke about how the company has continued to transform the retail landscape by creating some of the city's most iconic shopping and entertainment attractions. The company currently owns and operates 23 shopping malls with about one million sqm of leasable area focused primarily within the UAE, including City Centre Deira and Mall of the Emirates.

"City Centre Deira was the first integrated shopping mall development in the Middle East and the first City Centre development in what today is the largest shopping mall network in the region. City Centre Deira is where Dubai fell in love with shopping and is one of the first and oldest landmark shopping malls to pioneer the retail experience in the emirate. Shopping is just the beginning at Mall of the Emirates with its world-class attractions including the region's largest indoor ski resort, Ski Dubai and over 100 international restaurants and caf├ęs," he said.

Having committed in June 2016 to increasing its total investment in the UAE by Dh30 billion by 2026, taking its total investment in the country to Dh48 billion, Majid Al Futtaim plans to continue developing 'right-sized' malls in key neighbourhoods to meet the daily shopping needs of nearby residents.

"Innovation is inherent within the Majid Al Futtaim's core vision," Sharaf said. "In addition to building new lifestyle concepts, we continuously looking for ways to enhance and re-shape our existing malls to respond to changing customer needs and deliver great moments for everyone, every day. City Centre Deira received 22 million visitors, and Mall of the Emirates 42 million visitors [each year]."

- rohma@khaleejtimes.com

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