x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Gold souq polished up and scaled down

The gold souq in Dubai Mall has reopened after a nine-month closure during which the market underwent a major redesign.

The gold souq in Dubai Mall has reopened after a nine-month closure during which the market underwent a major redesign.

Rebranded The Souk, the huge area in the middle of one of the world's biggest malls now has a long, wide avenue running through it, where it once had a labyrinth of walkways.

The redesign includes three life-size metal camels at the entrance, a corridor of ladies' Arabic fashions and small wagons that run along the main avenue selling jewellery.

"I think I like it, personally," said Jay Soni, the general manager for Manish Jewellers, which opened its store in the new souq on Wednesday. "Now I can see people walking in. They would get lost in the corridors before."

Emaar Properties, the developer behind Dubai Mall, decided to overhaul the gold souq last year after a flurry of jewellers went out of business because they could not survive on the trickle of tourists visiting the market each day.

As many as 50 jewellers pulled out, some leaving unpaid rents and being chased last year by Emaar via the Dubai Municipality Rent Committee.

The gold souq has now been cut from more than 200 retailers to about 50.

It will include The Cheesecake Factory, a restaurant franchise from the United States, and a designer shoe store run by the Chalhoub Group.

"The customers that we have been receiving here have been very good," said one jeweller. "We opened recently and we think the business is going to be very good in the future. We are happy with the changes."

The gold souq redevelopment occupied less than 2 per cent of the net leasable area of 350,244 square metres in Dubai Mall.

Mr Soni had to close Manish for nine months for renovations and is now paying a higher rent than before. He kitted out the new store at his own cost.

Despite the near two-year saga between Emaar and the jewellers, Mr Soni, who had two stores in the mall before the renovations, said it was paramount to have a location in Dubai Mall because it is now world-renowned.

"All over the world Dubai Mall is a big name," he said.

Other jewellers were less cheerful about the changes to the mall, as it meant their stores were on a less busy corridor than the avenue and lanes leading to the mall's popular aquarium.

"It is too early to say anything," said one retailer, who did not want to be named. "Where we were before, we were getting good business. Now we [are] on a lane that is blocked at the end."

rjones@thenational.ae

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