Karama’s strip mall faces tough sum­mer


Gulf News - - Front Page - BY SAJILA SASEENDRAN Se­nior Re­porter

Busi­ness markedly down in one of Dubai’s old­est shop­ping com­plexes amid clam­p­down on coun­ter­feit goods

Be­fore, you could never get shops to rent here. Ear­lier, peo­ple used to sub­let the shops for very high rents. Now, all that has stopped and there are shops ly­ing closed.” Sami | Shop­keeper

T he long cor­ri­dors that used to be dot­ted with mannequins and cloth racks and al­ways abuzz with tourists and res­i­dents are de­serted. Shop­keep­ers, who used to com­pete with one an­other in so­lic­it­ing cus­tomers, sit idle most of the time.

Karama Shop­ping Com­plex, which was once a hub of re­tail shop­ping in Dubai and prob­a­bly the ear­li­est ver­sion of a strip mall in the emi­rate, is now brac­ing for one of its tough­est sum­mers.

Ac­cord­ing to shop­keep­ers, who gave only their first names, busi­ness has fallen dras­ti­cally in sev­eral shops in the build­ing com­plex, also known as Karama Mar­ket (not to be mis­taken for Karama Cen­tre or Al Karama Mar­ket that sells fish in a nearby build­ing).

There are over 300 re­tail shops lo­cated on the ground floors of six build­ings, the up­per floors of which are oc­cu­pied by res­i­dents in the bustling neigh­bour­hood of Karama. Last year, the four-decade-old com­plex got a facelift with artis­tic ren­der­ing on the walls.

The mam­moth paint­ings on the walls of these build­ings along both sides of the street in­stantly be­came the talk of the town and huge hits on so­cial me­dia. How­ever, they did not help much in draw­ing more foot­fall to the shops as ex­pected, the shop­keep­ers said.

Some shops have closed for­ever while some oth­ers have been tem­po­rar­ily shut down by author­i­ties for sell­ing fake goods, they told Gulf News.

Sami, an Ira­nian shop­keeper, said many shops have re­ported a 50 to 70 per cent drop in busi­ness in re­cent times.

“Busi­ness is com­ing down ev­ery year. Be­fore, you could never get shops to rent here. Ear­lier, peo­ple used to sub­let the shops for very high rents. Now, all that has stopped and there are shops ly­ing closed,” said Sami, who has been work­ing in a gar­ment shop in the com­plex for 12 years.

Shop­keep­ers said fines rang­ing be­tween Dh35,000 and Dh75,000 have been slapped on some stores in the com­plex for sell­ing coun­ter­feit prod­ucts. Un­der­cover of­fi­cials pos­ing as cus­tomers have also helped con­duct raids on premises out­side the com­plex where shops used to stack il­le­gal goods.

“You can’t find those fake prod­ucts in most of the shops now. Al­most all have stopped the il­le­gal sale of goods from rooms out­side the mar­ket also,” said Rafeek, an In­dian shop­keeper.

His friend, Sid­dique, said there is a ban on dis­play­ing goods in the cor­ri­dors. “It was one way of at­tract­ing the cus­tomers.”

A pro­lif­er­a­tion of malls in ev­ery nook and cor­ner of the city, the in­crease in rents over the years and the park­ing lots in front of the shops be­com­ing paid park­ing through­out the day have also been cited as rea­sons that af­fected busi­ness in the mar­ket.

Sami also cited a lack of proper road signs to the mar­ket as one of the rea­sons for fewer foot­falls of tourists. “It has be­come dif­fi­cult for peo­ple to find this place. There are lots of de­vel­op­ments and road works hap­pen­ing around.”

Cus­tomers who have been to the mar­ket ear­lier also say that it is not what it used to be.

Aga Prazy­byla, a Pol­ish res­i­dent of Abu Dhabi, who took her vis­it­ing in-laws to the mar­ket on Thurs­day, said: “I am not a big fan of this place as such. But this is a dif­fer­ent Dubai and dif­fer­ent shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence. That is why I brought them here. The first time I came here was some four years ago when I was in Dubai. I can see a lot of dif­fer­ence now. This is not how this place used to be. Now ev­ery­one is more care­ful, I be­lieve.”

Viren­dra Sak­lani/Gulf News

Shop­keep­ers await cus­tomers in an empty cor­ri­dor at Karama Shop­ping Com­plex.

Viren­dra Sak­lani/Gulf News

A closed shop at the Karama Shop­ping Com­plex. Busi­ness at the strip mall has taken a hit for var­i­ous rea­sons.

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