The Middle East Council of Shopping Centres, a regional trade body, is aiming to increase the number of UAE nationals working in the retail industry.
Emiratis: your shops need you
A regional trade body is aiming to raise the number of UAE nationals working in the retail industry.
The Middle East Council of Shopping Centres thinks the move will help to solve the UAE's dilemma about how to encourage more Emiratis to work in the private sector.
"The shopping centre industry and the retail industry globally represents 10 per cent of the economy and here with the tourism and the shopping centres, we believe that it's even more than that," said David Macadam, the council's chief executive and vice chairman.
That represents a good opportunity to bring in Emiratis who have an interest in shopping centres, he added.
Shopping is a huge "lifestyle event" in the UAE and Emiratis could help to adapt the shopping centre experience to be more in tune with the local culture.
"I am not speaking about shop assistants," said Mr Macadam. "I'm speaking of shopping centre specialists, shopping centre managers, shopping centre leasing specialists, shopping centre developers, basically people who are at the leading edge in the creation of the shopping centres, not in the day-to-day operations of a shop."
But bringing in Emiratis at a high level means that they may need to be shown the ropes by more experienced managers, said Mr Macadam, who has worked in the industry for three decades and mentored many people in that time.
However, the council is also hoping to set up a graduate degree level programme that will teach the basics of putting together a shopping centre management programme to support its aim. It hopes to have courses up and running by the end of this year or early next year.
Shopping centre management is a complex process that involves making sure retailers - and they could be anything between 200 and 1,200, depending on the size of the mall - open on time, have the right staffing levels and pay the correct amount of rent, while ensuring the inventory looks fresh and sales and turnover are what they should be, said Mr Macadam.
In addition, the managers must make sure the mall is clean, the CCTV cameras are all working and the correct number of security staff are in place.
"It gives you the sense that you are running a small city," said Fuad Sharaf, who runs nine malls regionally in his role as senior director for Majid Al Futtaim Shopping Malls GCC. Mr Fuad, an Emirati, worked in the public sector for eight years after graduating with a degree in banking and finance. He joined Majid Al Futtaim in 2004.
"I will never regret it because I am really happy with what I am doing," he said.
But does he think the council will be successful in recruiting more Emiratis to follow him?