x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Bahrain’s Dragon City follows in Dragon Mart footsteps

Bahrain is set to open a massive China-themed mall as part of a trend towards Chinese retail in the Gulf.

Bahrain is set to open a vast China-themed mall along the lines of Dubai’s Dragon Mart.

The real estate agency Cluttons has been appointed as the official agent of Dragon City, part of the US$3.2 billion mixed-use Diyar Al Muharraq development.

The wholesale and discount-oriented mall is targeting between 1 million and 2 million visitors a year.

“Dragon City’s catchment area will extend to all areas of Bahrain, the eastern province of Saudi Arabia and the neighbouring GCC countries,” said Harry Goodson-Wickes, the head of Cluttons Bahrain. “Dragon City will offer retail space for lease to both Chinese and Bahraini business, and leasing is expected to start shortly.”

The new mall is being developed by Kuwait Finance House Bahrain and several other private GCC-based investors. The model follows Dubai’s Dragon Mart, the largest trading hub for Chinese products outside of mainland China.

The phase two extension of Dragon Mart is set to double the size of the existing project to 335,000 square metres – an area big enough to fit 47 international football pitches.

“Each year the number of tourists from China has grown 15-20 per cent and Dubai was quick to see the opportunity,” said David Macadam, the chief executive of the Middle East Council of Shopping Centres. “Mainly the people that are coming are middle class, and the high-end retail is winning a lot of the customers as well. More retailers have signs in Mandarin with Mandarin and Cantonese-speaking sales staff.”

Trade between the UAE and China in the first half of last year reached $21.43 billion, 14 per cent up on 2012, with Chinese exports accounting for $15.44bn. Ajman’s China Mall, opened in 2010, is another Arabian Gulf retailer that has seen the benefit of offering the country’s goods in a purpose-built space.

“The Chinese tourists have a huge interest in the region, so increasing retail opportunities makes sense,” Mr Macadam said.

ascott@thenational.ae