The United Arab Emirates retail sector is expected to grow over 33 percent by 2015, according to a September 2014 report by Ventures Middle East released in conjunction with The Big 5 building and construction exhibition.
That growth is attracting investment into other countries in the GCC, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman, and to a smaller extent Qatar and Bahrain, the report said.
Dubai is the region's leading retail destination, with the second largest number of global brands after London, according to the report. The Dubai Mall and the Dubai Shopping Festival alone attract close to 35 million visitors per year.
New developments on the horizon include Dubai's recently announced ‘Mall of the World' entertainment and hotel district, which will include the world's largest mall, spread across eight million square metres, at an estimated cost of US$ 6.8 billion.
George Kostas is the CEO of Majid Al Futtaim - Properties, a leading shopping mall, retail and leisure developer the Middle East and North Africa, which owns and operates 17 shopping malls across the region.
He says the U.A.E. has earned a reputation as successful global and luxury retail brands destination since it attracts wealthy visitors from around the world.
"We expect an even greater investment in the retail and tourism sector in the lead-up to the Expo 2020,” said Kostas, whose company will expand and refurbish its Mall of the Emirates – including two new hotels - build a new shopping mall in the International Media Production Zone and a new luxury hotel at City Centre Deira.
"A rise in consumer purchasing power and a growing young and brand savvy population have made Dubai one of the world's most attractive hubs for retailers. To meet these future demands, Majid Al Futtaim has committed to over Dh 3bn (US$ 817m) of new investment across our Dubai portfolio.”
Leading shopping projects across the region include the Vendome Mall at Lusail in Qatar, which is under construction at an estimated value of US$ 1.37 billion, the planned Al Diriyah Festival City in Saudi Arabia, which has a value of US$ 1.6 billion, and the planned Muscat Festival City Mall in Oman.
"Leading retailers from around the world are all clamouring to enter a GCC market which has huge potential,, and that's only good news for developers in the region,” said Andy White, Group Event Director of The Big 5.
"We are seeing increased activity across the entire GCC as countries continue to position themselves as destinations for major tourism events. Increasingly, visitors to The Big 5 are sourcing products for retail projects and we continue to develop our event to help professionals take advantage of this exciting opportunity.”
The Big 5 runs from 17 – 20 November at the Dubai World Trade Centre and is open from 11:00am to 7:00pm daily.