Dubai’s Retail Market Not Saturated – MAF CEO

The retailer plans to invest over $1 billion annually over the next five years on expanding its business.



Dubai’s retail market is going strong and will continue to be driven by tourism and population growth in coming years, Iyad Malas, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim Holding (MAF) said in an interview with Gulf Business.

He dismissed the notion that the emirate’s retail sector has reached a point of saturation and said that MAF’s retail ventures in Dubai have seen strong growth.

Malas said that increased tourist arrivals and the domestic population growth will be integral in sustaining and expanding the emirate’s retail sector.

“Given our focus on retail, the growth in tourism actually translates into retail footfall in our shopping malls while the increase in population is a strong sustainable element of growth in our business,” he said.

Speaking earlier at a press conference, Malas said that MAF expects to grow around 10 to 12 per cent in 2013 and that the group will continue to focus on consumer retail.

MAF has also rebranded itself in a bid to unite its diverse group of companies under a common corporate identity. The latest branding strategy adopts the symbol of ‘M’ across the visual identity of the company’s brands that include City Centre Malls, VOX Cinemas, Carrefour, Magic Planet, Najm Credit Cards, Ski Dubai and Mall of the Emirates.

The Dubai-based retail giant also has aggressive investment and expansion plans in the coming years.

“The plan is that we will be investing over $1 billion a year in the next five years,” Malas told reporters.

MAF aims to expand in Lebanon, Egypt and Oman, doubling the size of its business by 2018. The retailer plans to build a super regional mall in Oman and has opened a City Centre in Beirut. It is also building the Mall of Egypt in Cairo, which is scheduled to be completed by 2016, company executives said.

“In Egypt we are starting from a very low base,” said Malas. “Dynamics in that market are clearly not the same as purchasing power is very different … we are catering to the domestic population and their needs.”

The MAF CEO said that Cairo alone has a population of 20 million people, which offers the group huge potential to expand in that market.

“We see a great opportunity as income rises but also even with existing levels of income, people still want to go out eat, drink and enjoy their shopping experience and that is what we try to provide them with. Mall of Egypt will offer all of these. “

MAF owns and operates 16 shopping malls and 11 hotels in the MENA region, including City Centre malls and Mall of the Emirates in Dubai. It also operates 19 hypermarkets and 24 regular outlets across the UAE.

Malas also said that the company is looking to replicate its retail success in Sharjah with plans to build a new mall in the emirate.

“We have a joint venture with the government of Sharjah called Sharjah Holding. We have already developed five community centres through the joint venture all of which has a Carrefour supermarket and some other stores,” he said.