Dubai’s draw as a leading international destination for retail continues to grow exponentially. Dubai was the fourth-most popular city in the world with a total of 15.79 million tourists having visited the city in 2017, according to Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing. Dubai Retail Review 2017 by Core Savills estimates that international visitors spend an average of $2,050 per overnight stay.
Mercer’s 20th Quality of Living Survey also ranked Dubai as the best city for expats in the Middle East and Africa to live and work, with foreign residents accounting for nearly 88.52 per cent of the UAE population.
Combined these factors have contributed to a thriving local retail landscape. In fact, Ibn Battuta Mall, Nakheel Malls’ flagship retail and entertainment destination, witnessed a record 21 million footfall in 2017, thanks to a surge in tourists, new tenants at the mall and the expansion of nearby residential developments.
Dubai’s shopping malls play a huge role in drawing tourists every year. Attracted by shopping festivals including the Dubai Shopping Festival and Dubai Summer Surprises among numerous other retail events each year, millions of visitors make sure retail therapy is part of their itinerary. Residents, meanwhile, continue to look forward to a host of deals and promotions that accompany these ever-growing annual festivals, while mall developers want to ensure that they deliver new and unique retail experiences that exceed consumer expectations.
Dubai is a shopper’s paradise with some of the most iconic malls in the world offering much more than just retail. With restaurants, supermarkets, banks, multiplex cinemas, play areas and a host of recreational facilities and attractions, visitors are spoilt for choice.
As new residential communities spring up in Dubai, the need for community malls that service these areas continues to grow. It is imperative for mall developers to observe shopper trends and buyer behaviour to adapt their offerings.
At Nakheel Malls, we recognise this need and have developed community malls called pavilions in Al Furjan, Discovery Gardens, International City, Jumeirah Islands and Jumeirah Park, with more on the way at Nad Al Sheba, Al Furjan West and Badrah.
Meanwhile, as the demand for retail continues to grow, technology has emerged as the game changer for retailers. While e-commerce and online shopping offers convenience for some, it can never replace the experience of physically being at a mall, whether it’s to shop, dine, visit the cinema, play at the kids’ zone or simply meet up and socialise.
But equally, mall owners must look to the online players and assess the feasibility of more cost effective pricing to attract consumers to their premises.
Consumers are looking for experiences and as long as malls are able to successfully create and deliver these experiences that go beyond retail and include F&B, entertainment and lifestyle offerings, malls will continue to grow in popularity. But mall developers must remember that to stay relevant for consumers they must offer the whole gamut of services without compromising on choice or quality.
Shoppers today are more informed and connected than they were a decade ago and technology has played a crucial part in enabling this transition. Mall owners must therefore use technology as a tool to create or enhance retail and lifestyle offerings that appeal to consumers.
As real estate developers introduce community retail in conjunction with their residential developments to address the existing captive demand for F&B and supermarkets, mall developers will need to address similar gaps in the market to stay successful in the long term.
In the run up to Expo2020, real estate developers and mall owners are looking at a refreshed line-up of inventory across the city. This will stimulate the sector and create vibrant new opportunities for growth and expansion of retail concepts in the UAE in the years to come.
Omar Khoory is managing director at Nakheel Malls