Dubai Mall, one of the world's biggest shopping and entertainment centres, is set to become even bigger as it expands by 1 million square feet.
The expansion, which follows plans to build a pedestrian bridge from the mall to the Burj Khalifa metro station, is set to add hotel rooms, restaurants and shops to the mall.
"The Dubai Mall is a powerful demonstration of the competencies that Emaar has developed in retail, regarded as one of the core sectors of Dubai's economy," said Mohamed Alabbar, the chairman of Emaar Properties, the mall's developer.
Across the UAE, the retail sector is flourishing, with stores reporting strong sales in the past 12 months thanks to large numbers of tourists visiting the Emirates.
Other developers, such as Nakheel and Al Ghurair Group, have announced heavy investment in retail infrastructure in the past year to take advantage of the growing market.
"The [Emaar] expansion is reinforcing the point that the retail sector is one of those sectors [developers] are really investing in at the moment, rather than commercial or residential," said Craig Plumb, the head of research at the property consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle. "The emphasis on this should not just be more shops. It should be on food and beverage, entertainment and leisure."
More than 54 million shoppers and tourists visited Dubai Mall last year, up 15 per cent on the previous year.
The mall has more than 1,200 stores and 160 food and beverage outlets with an internal floor area of 5.9 million square feet and a total area of 12 million sq ft, making it the biggest shopping and leisure destination in the world.
"Just as the expectations of customers are changing, the retailing sector is also witnessing rapid shifts. Through our expansion programme, we will use the most advanced technologies to offer an integrated mix of retail and entertainment that will meet the requirements of our visitors," Mr Alabbar said. Emaar's net profit was down 50 per cent for the nine months ending September 30, to Dh1.24 billion (US$340 million) from Dh2.34bn in the same period the previous year.
At the time of the results, the company praised the "sustained growth of its hospitality and leisure, and shopping malls and retail subsidiaries".
Recurring revenue from the hospitality and shopping malls business accounted for about 41 per cent of total revenue in the first nine months, Emaar said.
"The Emaar results that came out showed the strong performing assets were hotels and retail. They are generating cash that can be used for different investments," Mr Plumb said.
Nakheel, a government-owned entity, is also expanding in retail, adding to DragonMart and raising Dh300m to build The Pointe, a retail and leisure complex on the tip of the Palm Jumeirah.
Al Ghurair Group is in the middle of a Dh2bn expansion of Al Ghurair Centre and is adding 25 per cent more space to BurJuman Mall.
Retail space has increased 60 per cent in Dubai since 2005, according to Jones Lang LaSalle, and the per capita mall space is almost double the level in Abu Dhabi, which has the second-highest rate in the Middle East.