Five retail heavyweights gave their stamp of approval to Yas Mall yesterday, signing up to 40 per cent of the leasing space more than two years before a planned opening.
MH Alshaya, Landmark Group, Dubai Holding Group, Royal Sporting House and Liwa Trading have agreed to add brands to the US$2 billion (Dh544.4 million) mall, which is to feature 235,000 square metres of retail space when it opens in the fourth quarter of 2013.
"There's a lack of supply of good retail in Abu Dhabi. We are building a quality experience because it is not just any conventional shopping centre," said Mohammed Al Mubarak, the deputy chief executive of Aldar Properties, the mall's developer.
The five retailers are partners or franchisees for many popular brands in the Middle East, and agreement to rent space indicates a vote of confidence for Yas Mall.
MH Alshaya, based in Kuwait, which has more than 55 brands across the region and Turkey, will bring Starbucks, H&M, Topshop, Next, Boots, and Pottery Barn and other brands to the mall.
"For us, what Abu Dhabi has been missing is a regional shopping mall," said John Hadden, the senior vice president of retail property at Alshaya. "Aldar has put the vision to plan and developed a mall that will dominate retail for years to come."
Landmark Group will bring many of its brands, which are predominantly home-grown, such as Max, Centrepoint, Home Centre and Emax.
Other brands in the mall will include the BHS and Debenhams department store chains, Calvin Klein, Ted Baker, Zara and food outlets such as PF Chang's, Carluccio's and Pinkberry.
"The commitment shown to Yas Mall by some of the UAE's leading retail groups is a fantastic endorsement of what we are looking to achieve," Mr Mubarak said.
He added that the company was hoping to sign leases for more than 95 per cent of the retail space by next year.
Also planned is a Géant Hypermarket, a multiplex cinema, a family entertainment centre and a bridge with direct access to Ferrari World.
Yas Mall will be the biggest mall in Abu Dhabi and the second-biggest in the UAE, behind Dubai Mall.
Fred Douglas, the director of retail leasing at Aldar, said despite a high level of retail planned for the capital, he did not feel there would be oversupply.
"There is equilibrium between supply and demand," he said.
Aldar last week awarded the construction contract to Six Construct, a unit of Orascom Construction Industries. Mr Mubarak said the foundations were in place and work would start within weeks.
About 70 per cent of the cost of building the mall will be paid for by debt and the remainder with Aldar's own cash.
Aldar, which was rescued by a bailout by Abu Dhabi in January, also appointed a new chief financial officer yesterday. Greg Fewer, who is currently deputy head of the structured finance and capital markets at Mubadala Development, a strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government, will start his role on November 1.