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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Emaar Malls CEO: brick-and-mortar retailers unfazed by e-commerce

The operator of Dubai Mall recorded 99 million visitors during the first nine months of 2018

Dubai Mall, operated by Emaar Malls. The company says footfall at its outlets is growing healthily despite e-commerce boom. Bloomberg
Dubai Mall, operated by Emaar Malls. The company says footfall at its outlets is growing healthily despite e-commerce boom. Bloomberg

Despite a UAE e-commerce boom propelled by events such as White Friday, Black November and Cyber Monday deals, brick-and-mortar outlets do not regard online as a threat to their market share.

“While e-commerce will make inroads and transform the retail sector – and it must as part of our digital evolution – the touch-and-feel of malls will continue to be relevant,” Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, chief executive of Emaar Malls, told The National.

“We have recorded year-on-year increase in visitor arrivals, with all assets under Emaar Malls welcoming 99 million visitors during the first nine months of 2018,” he said.

“We saw a sustained growth in visitor footfall at The Dubai Mall with a 4 per cent increase in the first nine months to 60 million.”

With a gross leasable area of more than 6.7 million square feet in Dubai, Emaar Malls’ physical assets also include Dubai Marina Mall, Souk Al Bahar and Gold & Diamond Park.

The Middle East e-commerce market, driven primarily by the UAE and Saudi Arabia, will grow by 16.4 per cent over the next three-and-a-half years, according to a report by BMI Research.

The consultancy firm AT Kearney said the regional market is forecast to reach $20 billion by 2020. And with e-commerce accounting for less than 3 per cent of total Middle East retail sales compared to more than 10 per cent in the US, there is significant room for growth.

Mohamed Alabbar, billionaire businessman and chairman of Emaar Properties, got the ball rolling in 2017 by unveiling the $1bn e-commerce venture Noon in partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

Emaar Malls retailers recorded strong sales that were reflected in occupancy levels of 93 per cent in the first nine months of this year.

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In a bid to further boost footfall, Majid Al Futtaim offered discounts up to 90 per cent at its shopping malls in Dubai last weekend, coinciding with Black Friday deals.

“During this Black Friday, we saw a huge surge in sales and we also acquired a number of new customers. Social media was the biggest driver for sales for most e-commerce companies,” said Ulugbek Yuldashev, founder and chief executive of Awok.com.

“Offline companies, too, have tried with a number of aggressive offline promotions to boost their sales this year, but online shopping is fast becoming a rage in the UAE.”

Amazon-owned Souq.com ran White Friday from November 20-24 and offered customers in the Arabian Gulf and Egypt discounts of up to 70 per cent.

“The majority of customers shopping on Souq this White Friday used credit/debit cards, which is a very positive change,” said Ronaldo Mouchawar, chief executive of Souq.com. “It is exciting to see the sheer number of first-time customers who used our mobile app.”