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Dubai's Alif Investments turns to Pakistani celebrities

Alif Investments is set to leverage the allure of Pakistani celebrities as it rolls out 150 new retail concepts across the Gulf.

A new Dubai retail and hospitality investment company is set to embark on a multimillion-dirham spending spree.

Alif Investments plans to open 150 retail operations, such as shops, restaurants and boutiques, across the Gulf in the next five years, with six stores opening over the next two days.

"This is the best time to invest," said Asif Jabbar, a director and the group chief executive.

"There is so much bounce in the market. If you have the right product at the right price, you should not miss this opportunity."

Alif Investments is capitalising on the power of Pakistani celebrities and will open the first Junaid Jamshed clothing boutique in Abu Dhabi, with the store originally founded by the renowned Pakistani singer.

The company will also open two butcher "concept stores" called Meat One, founded by Pakistan cricket legends Inzamam-ul-Haq and Saeed Anwar, and three restaurants called Emly & Chilli, offering a mix of Pakistani and Indian cuisine.

Alif Investments was set up last year with Dh100 million (US$27.2m) in funding to expand into the retail sector, and Mr Jabbar says that despite global economic uncertainty, retail in the Gulf was likely to be shielded from any downturn.

"The GCC will not be affected," he said. "The GCC is in the Middle East and nothing will happen."

The company will make a foray into the Saudi market next year, before looking at other countries in the Gulf. It is also investing in back-office functions, building a new factory in Dubai and making its first venture into the packaged-foods industry.

"We are investing in infrastructure and coming up with our own supply chain," said Mr Jabbar. "You have to deliver a whole package to the end consumer. It's not as easy as three years ago."

Alif Investments joins a growing number of companies investing across the retail spectrum, from new malls, to supermarkets and expensive clothing stores.

Fujairah City Centre, a mall under development by Majid Al Futtaim Properties in partnership with the government-owned Fujairah Investment Establishment, yesterday announced it had leased 90 per cent of the mall a year ahead of opening.

The mall has 100 of the 105 retail outlets confirmed, including the emirate's largest Carrefour hypermarket, a Paris Gallery store, a Centrepoint and a number of new brands to the region.

Retailers are expanding rapidly from Dubai to areas such as Fujairah and Abu Dhabi, which has more than 200,000 square feet of mall space coming online this year.

rjones@thenational.ae

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