The survival of shopping malls in retail’s evolving world


The days of ‘mega-malls’ are long gone and a customer-centric approach is key to a competitive, profitable mall of the future, say industry experts. As the retail industry begins to recover, the malls landscape in the GCC will change dramatically over the next few years.

As the key emerging markets of Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Oman develop rapidly into profitable retailing hubs, saturated markets such as Dubai must re-address their strategies to focus on ‘catchment consumers’, those living and working in the surrounding area, and convenience shoppers.

A white paper examining the ways in which GCC malls can differentiate themselves in the market place has highlighted a need for much clearer focus on consumer patterns and understanding the most effective ways to communicate with them.

Published by Retail City, one of the leading conferences in the region for the retail industry, taking place alongside Cityscape Global later this month, the white paper provides step-by-step solutions for a number of key sectors within the mall space, including F&B, entertainment and retail mix. Entitled ‘Innovate to differentiate: The future of the mall in the GCC’, the white paper was devised following a steering group discussion with participation from six of the retail industry’s leading experts representing Al Fahim Group, GRMC, Emrill, Jashanmal, Jones Lang LaSalle and Nayomi. .

David Macadam, Head of Retail for Jones Lang LaSalle, moderated the discussion. He commented: ”The mix of retailers in a mall should cater directly to the demographic that is being served. There needs to be enough choice to make it compelling for the shopper to come back. It is vital to understand the catchment area and community, as well as the increasing trend towards buying for today rather than the traditional weekly shop that heralded the popularity of the anchor hypermarket.”

The panel of experts highlighted key components that can help malls to encourage loyal footfall, as well as ensure it makes sound business sense to secure the longevity of the centre.

These include: incorporating entertainment that appeals to the family but does not fall into the realm of ‘novelty’ as the novelty is likely to wear off; involving FM companies from the get-go to ensure the developer’s vision is shared without compromising the comfort and convenience for the consumer; knowing your audience, catering accordingly and de-leasing underperforming retailers, even if the rent is being paid; ensuring F&B outlets provide a mix appropriate to the consumer profile visiting the mall and that logistics are in place to deliver the concept; communicating with the audience, as consumers are more demanding now than ever before and the growth of e-retail could tempt shoppers away from store.

What has become apparent is that the growth of ‘mega malls’ is unlikely to continue in the GCC, with consumer trends, following the economic challenges of recent years, maturing and the emphasis falling on convenience and experience.

Increasing footfall and tapping into consumer trends will be topics of discussion at the upcoming Retail City conference, taking place from 27-29 September at Dubai International Conference and Exhibition Centre. Speakers from Majid Al Futtaim Fashion, Kidzania, Dubai Duty Free and are just a few of the industry experts providing insight into the regional, and international, retail market.


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