One of the largest retailers of luxury brands in the Middle East plans a rapid expansion in the capital.
The Chalhoub Group, which has partnerships with retailers such as Chanel, Fendi and Saks Fifth Avenue, intends to open more than 40 stores in Abu Dhabi over the next two years.
"We are very ambitious about Abu Dhabi," said Mansour Hajjar, the managing director of Allied Enterprises, Chalhoub's trading name in the UAE.
He continued that "the [Abu Dhabi] plan of 2030 is on the right track and being developed at the right pace - not too fast like Dubai."
Allied Enterprises aims to have 50 stores in Abu Dhabi by 2013, growing from just eight at the end of last year. The retailer currently runs 88 stores across the UAE, and opened six stores in Abu Dhabi Mall in the first quarter of this year, including Lacoste, Marc by Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors.
"There is a most noticeable difference between the consumer of Abu Dhabi and the consumer of Dubai," Mr Hajjar said. "We see in Abu Dhabi today a young generation with high aspirations for luxury products and a higher purchasing power than Dubai."
Many of the group's brands gain a proportion of their sales from Abu Dhabi residents travelling to Dubai. For some brands, such as Carolina Herrera, the US haute couture company, more than 30 per cent of sales come from Abu Dhabi residents, Mr Hajjar said.
The group aims to launch its first Carolina Herrera store in Abu Dhabi within weeks and also intends to take advantage of the vast amount of retail space coming on to the market in the capital this year.
Mushrif Mall in the middle of Abu Dhabi island, Bawabat Al Sharq Mall in Baniyas and 9712 BMC near Musaffah are all due to be completed this year.
Allied Enterprises plans to open six stores in Bawabat Al Sharq, two at Mushrif Mall and four in Al Ain, taking the total to 26 in the emirate by the end of the year. In total, the Chalhoub Group has 280 prestige brands, including joint ventures with Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton.
The company has a presence in 14 countries across the Middle East, and more than 5,800 employees, with about a third in Dubai.
Sales from shops in the capital are expected to grow at 10 per cent this year, Mr Hajjar said, and while Dubai is now deemed a "saturated" retail market, sales in the emirate far outstripped expectations for the first quarter. "We have seen an amazing surge in tourism in Dubai in the first quarter due to the regional unrest in North Africa and the Levant countries, as well as lots of GCC tourism," Mr Hajjar said.
"In fashion, sales have grown by 18 to 20 per cent, with beauty activity slightly more conservative."