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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

Al Ahli to expand Dubai’s Outlet Mall and launch own hypermarket brand

Ali Al Samahi, the head of ventures at Al Ahli, says the mall extension will be a different experience when it opens by the beginning of 2016.

Al Ahli Group Holding, the company behind Dubai’s Outlet Mall and Gold’s Gym franchise, plans to expand the shopping centre and launch its own hypermarket brand.

In July construction on the mall’s extension will begin, adding 1.5 million square feet of retail space, more than doubling the existing size of the mall to 2.5 million sq ft with space for 400 retailers. Presently it has 240 shops with 97 per cent of its retail space leased and 150,000 to 160,000 customers a week.

“It will open 18 months from July, so the beginning of 2016,” said Ali Al Samahi, the head of ventures at Al Ahli. “The new extension will be a different experience from what the Outlet Mall offers now, with cinema screens and our own branded hypermarket. The expansion will cater for the burgeoning residential areas that are growing around the mall but will also carry the bargains that make people travel to the mall at present.”

The mall expects to tap into communities in the vicinity including Silicon Oasis, the Villa, Arabian Ranches 2 and a number of smaller developments.

It already owns smaller community supermarkets but is close to delivering its first hypermarket in Dubai Investment Park (DIP), scheduled to open in January 2015.

“We do have supermarkets but they are not that successful at present,” said Mr Al Samahi. “We will launch a new brand which, once successful, will then subsume the original supermarkets. We are not announcing the brand name until we get the licence. There is a huge space in DIP of 130,000 sq feet, half will be the hypermarket, half F&B outlets, retail shops and Gold’s Gym which we call The Club. This will be delivered by January 2015. Carrefour and Lulu are at the lower end of the hypermarket sector, Spinneys and Waitrose are at the top end and there is a niche in between where we will sit.”

According to a report by Business Monitor International, the UAE’s retail sales are forecast to grow from an estimated Dh114 billion in 2011 to Dh151bn by 2015, a near 30 per cent jump in four years.

The new direction is one which analysts see as positive. “The expansion plans make complete sense to attract value-conscious shoppers,” says Veena Desa, the executive director at Middle East Council of Shopping Centres. “Shoppers are looking for a comprehensive one-stop solution and the new hypermarket will certainly be a draw. For any brand entering into the market, it boils down to strategy and commitment. The UAE retail market is continually evolving so there is room for new players, including hypermarket brands.”

The Al Ahli Group has operated the Gold’s Gym franchise since 2011. In September 2012 with only 1,500 members in four clubs spread between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, a decision was taken to restructure the operation. The franchise has been revitalised since and now has 22,000 members.

“We have opened four clubs every year so we have 12 clubs now. But this year we are opening nine clubs across the UAE and one in Oman,” said Mr Al Samahi. “Sixty per cent of our members are UAE nationals. We have a flexible approach to the areas we like to target, whether it be a UAE national area or an expat area we know that some like group exercise, others like personal training, some prefer MMA [mixed martial arts], others not. We tailor our offerings to the customer base and it has been incredibly successful.”

ascott@thenational.ae

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