The 250 additional stores set to open in Abu Dhabi’s expanded Al Wahda Mall this summer are just the tip of the iceberg for retail growth as more than 1,000 shops are planned in developments across the Middle East.
Majid Al Futtaim, Emaar Properties, LuLu Group and Al-Futtaim are building mega malls in the region as foreign brands look to expand stores. Virgin Megastore, H&M and Calvin Klein are just a handful of the major international brands opening stores in the extension of Al Wahda Mall.
The mall is to double in size, with shops and food and beverage outlets, including a cinema and fitness centre, adding to the 200 stores already trading.
UAE developers are leading the expansion of malls in the region, building more than 1,000 shop units in cities such as Cairo, Doha, Istanbul and Beirut as they try to replicate the success of the thriving retail landscape in the Emirates, particularly Dubai.
“There are opportunities,” said Vipen Sethi, the chief executive of Landmark Group, which has more than 1,000 stores around the region and is adding hundreds more. “I cannot tell you exactly how many stores we are going to add, but there’s many opportunities to go into malls.”
Landmark has its own home-grown brands, such as Splash, Max, Emax and Home Centre,and international franchises with Reiss, New Look, Lipsy and Koton.
The Dubai developer Al-Futtaim is investing billions of dirhams in building more than 700 shops across its flagship developments in Doha and Cairo’s Festival City, adding brands such as Ikea, Marks & Spencer and the electronics store Plug-ins to the malls.
Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, WH Smith, Kate Spade, LK Bennett, George, F&F, Giordano, House of Fraser and M&Co are some of the international brands opening new stores in the Middle East.
“Look at the potential spend in some of these markets and you understand why retailers are looking there,” said Matthew Green, the head of research at the property and mall specialist CBRE.
“If you look at somewhere like Qatar, despite the fact that it has high per capita income, there’s a lot of brands present in Dubai that are not in that market,” he added.
Emaar Properties, through its subsidiaries, is developing two major malls in Cairo and Istanbul.
“It will feature over 400 stores, thousands of car-parking spaces and large-scale, family-based entertainment amenities,” an Emaar spokesman said. “Emaar is [also] developing the Uptown Cairo Mall, an integral part of Uptown Cairo.”
Abu Dhabi is set to lead the growth of retail, with its own mall space forecast to grow from a current 709,000 square metres to 1.4 million sq metres by 2015, according to DTZ property group.
The extension at Al Wahda Mall is forecast to thrust the mall to the “forefront of the shopping experience in Abu Dhabi with a large spectrum of shopping experiences under one roof”, said Yusuff Ali M.A., the managing director of LuLu Group, the mall’s developer.
MH Alshaya has confirmed 14 brands within Al Wahda, including American Eagle Outfitters, Pottery Barn Kids, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge and Bath & Body Works.
Azadea Group, from Lebanon, is also opening Pull and Bear, Bershka, Virgin Megastore, Pepe Jeans, Jules, Piazza Italia, Tezenis and George, which is the budget value clothing line from the British supermarket chain Asda, owned by Wal-Mart of the United States.
Landmark Group and Liwa Trading Enterprises have also signed up a number of their brands, such as Reiss, New Look and Gant. BHS and M&Co, both British retailers operated by Liwa, will be the anchor clothing stores in the development.
“Our partnership with Al Wahda Mall has been exemplary over the past years, and it was a natural transition for us to consider Al Wahda extension as the appropriate vehicle for our brands’ strong presence in Abu Dhabi” said Aniss Baobied, the general manager of Liwa Trading.from the national.