x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Emirates makes top five list for retailers

Abu Dhabi's upcoming cultural and residential projects make the UAE one of the top five markets for retailers.

Shoppers sample Arabian perfumes at Swiss Arabian Perfumes in Marina Mall.
Shoppers sample Arabian perfumes at Swiss Arabian Perfumes in Marina Mall.

Abu Dhabi's upcoming cultural and residential projects make the UAE one of the top five markets for retailers to cash in on, according to a study by an international management consultancy. The Emirates ranked fourth on AT Kearney's annual Global Retail Development Index, which ranks 30 emerging countries based on potential retail opportunities, rising 16 spots on the index compared with last year. Robert Ziegler, the vice president of AT Kearney in Dubai, said the Emirates made the biggest jump up the ranks because of developments in Abu Dhabi such as the Guggenheim and Louvre museums on Saadiyat Island, and the residential and office towers on Reem Island, which will need retail incorporated into them. "That brings more residents, and that means more retail and more money in people's pockets that gets spent," he said. "There's a lot of potential that is not quite tapped yet. Most of Abu Dhabi has been built [in the] 70s and 80s, and since then there was not much development going until the last couple of years, when Abu Dhabi started to reshape itself." Retail space in the UAE is expected to almost double from 700,000 square metres to 1.2 million square metres in the next two years, according to Mr Ziegler. This includes new shopping centres such as the revamped Central Market, Abu Dhabi's old souq, and small retail shops built into new residential communities, he said. India took the top spot as the retail market with the most potential, followed closely by Russia, China, then the UAE. Saudi Arabia came in fifth place, rising two spots from last year. However, other countries in the region dropped significantly after the economic downturn reduced the population's spending power, Mr Ziegler said. Egypt ranked fifth last year but fell to 15th place, Morocco fell 13 spots to 19th place, while Turkey dropped 10 spots to 20th place. Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia were uniquely positioned as the markets in the region with the most business potential, especially because of their resilience during the tough economic climate, said Mr Ziegler. "These are the places that will flourish in the coming years," he said. "They have continued strong income from natural resources and they're both in a process of reform and modernisation." Laurent-Patrick Gally, a retail analyst at Shuaa Capital, said both markets were relatively young, leaving a lot of room for growth. "And at the same time this is backed by a population that has a relatively high spending power compared to the rest of the world," he said. Keith Flanagan, the general manager for Dubai-based Al Ghurair Retail which manages brands such as Springfields and Triumph, said the retail group was increasingly looking for opportunities in Abu Dhabi. He said it had eight stores planned for the capital, scheduled to open over the next 12 months, on top of its existing six stores and not including retail developments that have not yet begun leasing, such as Yas Mall. "In terms of retail space, Dubai is pretty much saturated now with what's already open and what's already online coming up in the next two years," he said. "Whereas Abu Dhabi is drastically undershopped." aligaya@thenational.ae