Rather than driving to one of Dubai's numerous shopping centres for a retail splurge, shopaholics in Fujairah will soon be able to nip down the road to the emirate's first major mall.
Construction began yesterday on Fujairah City Centre, a 30,000- square-metre mall with 100 speciality retail stores, cafes and restaurants, aimed at serving the Northern Emirates. It is scheduled to open next year.
Analysts say the mall, which is being constructed at a cost of Dh400 million (US$108.9m), will be "game-changing" for consumers in the region, which currently only has stand-alone hypermarkets for devotees of the big shop.
"We are not just talking about fashion stores; there will be many types of shops ranging from electronics through to leisure stores," said Richard Adams, a retail analyst at Datamonitor, based in Dubai. "For consumers that want an entertainment option, this will really enhance their options ," Mr Adams added.
Set to open in the second quarter of next year, the mall's anchor stores will be the global hypermarket Carrefour and Centerpoint, the department store. The project will be the sixth mall to be developed by Majid Al Futtaim Properties in the UAE and will be built by Khansaheb Civil Engineering.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad, Crown Prince of Fujairah, laid the foundation stone of the mall yesterday.
The retail sector in the Northern Emirates is deemed to be under-serviced compared with the more populous cities of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.
The total retail market in Fujairah is expected to grow rapidly as investment is set to increase and infrastructure is built.
Consumers in Fujairah and Ras al Khaimah spent $460m on clothing and footwear last year, compared with $3.4 billion in Dubai and$3.5bn in Abu Dhabi, according to the data-provider Euromonitor.
"Generally, Majid Al Futtaim has been one of the best operators in identifying areas to position malls," Mr Adams said.
The Government last month pledged to spend Dh5.7bn to provide water and electricity to homes and shops in the Northern Emirates.
Fujairah is also a strategic port for the oil industry with two-thirds of UAE's oil expected to be shipped out of the city with the completion of a pipeline from Abu Dhabi.
The emirate is also expected to build a new Fujairah-Dubai motorway, which will reduce the driving time between the two emirates by 45 minutes.
Although the Government has said it would not move key departments from Abu Dhabi and Dubai to the region, the number of jobs there is expected to increase.
The population in Fujairah is expected to reach 185,000 by next year, while the new mall alone will create 1,200 jobs in the emirate.
The nationwide extension of the remit of the Khalifa Fund to Support and Develop Small & Medium Enterprises to offer loans at zero interest to aspiring Emirati entrepreneurs will also generate jobs and support smaller businesses.
Peter Walichnowski, the chief executive of Majid Al Futtaim Properties, said the new mall would cater to the increasing demand for premium shopping destinations and the growing population in Fujairah.
The group has ambitious growth plans including two giant centres in Egypt and Syria, and aims to double the number of Carrefour hypermarkets over the coming three years across the Middle East.