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Older shop­ping cen­tres are fo­cus­ing more on com­mu­nity based ac­tiv­i­ties, leav­ing the re­tail razzmatazz to the newer lux­ury malls.

Gulf Marketing Review - - FRONT PAGE -

OLDER MALLS in the re­gion are fac­ing a dilemma: ex­pand or die. But as it turns out, this isn’t their only op­tion.

Emaar, for ex­am­ple, has al­ways traded on be­ing the big­gest, bold­est and first at ev­ery­thing – the ‘flag­ship’ men­tal­ity. And Emaar does it well, with its cen­tre­piece – The Dubai Mall – which at­tracted 65 mil­lion shop­pers last year. A re­cent re­port by Bain & Co re­veals that it ac­counts for half of all lux­ury goods sold in Dubai.

Nasser Rafi, CEO of Emaar Malls Group, says: “Cus­tomers are now more dis­cern­ing, with a strong pref­er­ence for in­ter­na­tional brands and, more im­por­tantly, look­ing to en­joy the ‘flag­ship out­let’ ex­pe­ri­ence.”

And older malls have re­sponded by fo­cus­ing more on com­mu­nal ac­tiv­i­ties.

“Newer malls are of­fer­ing more ac­tiv­i­ties and at­trac­tions, along with more brands, whereas old malls are pro­vid­ing more com­mu­nity based at­trac­tions and ac­tiv­i­ties,” says Tim Jones, COO of Dubai’s Lamcy Plaza, which opened in 1997.

“It should make sense for a cus­tomer to come to our mall, in spite of hav­ing one of the world’s largest malls and the best iconic brands in the same city,” he adds. Lamcy Plaza now houses a hy­per­mar­ket, an Air Ara­bia store and iCare clinic.

Bashar Aboul Hosn, GM at DDB af­fil­i­ate shop­per mar­keter Tra­cylocke, says: “In the olden days, if your store was nearby, you would be my pre­ferred re­tailer... To­day you need to have good ser­vice, the right prod­ucts, com­pet­i­tive prices and the ex­pe­ri­ence that con­sumers are de­mand­ing.”

Dubai’s ur­ban tourism grew ex­po­nen­tially over the past decade, with par­al­lel growth in the re­tail land­scape as well.

Imad Abi Rizk, se­nior man­ager of ex­change at Mind­share UAE, says: “Most mod­ern malls are based along­side the city coast, neigh­bour­ing plenty of ho­tels and tourist land­marks. How­ever, the older and more re­mote malls are try­ing harder to at­tract their share of cus­tomers. They are push­ing for lo­cal events and en­ter­tain­ment, while some are even in­tro­duc­ing loy­alty cards and in­cen­tives.”

Sa­hara Cen­tre, on the Dubai-Shar­jah high­way, which opened in 2002, has up­graded its fa­cil­i­ties this year and added new stores, but ad­mits that it trades off con­ve­nience. “The mall has grown in pop­u­lar­ity as the pre­ferred desti­na­tion for shop­pers in Shar­jah, who pre­vi­ously used to make long trips to Dubai dur­ing week­ends,” says Akram Am­mar, Sa­hara Cen­tre’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor.

In Egypt, older malls are fo­cus­ing on low-in­come con­sumers, while the Bagh­dad In­vest­ment Com­mis­sion opened a $35 mil­lion mall in Man­soor dis­trict, the largest of its kind in Iraq. In Riyadh, the Panorama Mall is a strong of­fer­ing along­side the King­dom Cen­tre and Al Faisalia Mall. Panorama Mall has sep­a­rate ar­eas for lux­ury and high street brands, in­clud­ing a food court and an amuse­ment park. But short­com­ings in­clude poor pub­lic ac­cess, lim­ited park­ing and age­ing in­ter­nal fin­ishes. On the whole, al­though older malls are up­grad­ing, it isn’t the right an­swer.

“We can clearly see a strong ren­o­va­tion trend in older malls, but what we don’t see is a seg­men­ta­tion ap­proach,” says Nick Walsh, busi­ness di­rec­tor at Ogilvy Ac­tion, Dubai.

“The only mall that seems to stick to its theme is the Out­let Mall in Dubai. Oth­ers [are try­ing] to em­u­late The Dubai Mall. This is putting them in di­rect com­pe­ti­tion with a mall that they can­not com­pete with, in­stead of fo­cus­ing on what makes them spe­cial or at least look­ing into us­ing their lo­ca­tion ad­van­tage as lever­age.”

Fam­ily fun: Older malls are push­ing for lo­cal events and en­ter­tain­ment

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