x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Retailer Dubai Holding targets Abu Dhabi

The retailer behind Zara in Abu Dhabi is planning a major expansion plan as the capital enjoys strong growth in retail space.

One of Dubai's lesser known retailers is banking on a thriving shopping scene in Abu Dhabi after agreeing to launch 11 stores in Yas Mall when it opens in 2013.

Dubai Holding Group, a retailer behind brands such as Zara in Abu Dhabi, Gerard Darel and Promod, runs 35 stores around the region and aims to open 20 more next year in a major expansion, with Abu Dhabi the focus a year later. (The company is not connected to the Dubai Holding conglomerate.)

"We are not one of the big machines. We are a small retailer but we have part of the market and we like to compete. You don't necessarily have to be a big fish to compete," said Jean-Michel Bolly, the group retail manager.

Abu Dhabi had a "massive opportunity" to grow its retail sector, he said, because it was still underdeveloped and the population wealth per capita was high.

The capital is forecast to eventually have the largest amount of shopping centre retail space in the world relative to its population, according to the property broker Cushman & Wakefield.

Dubai, meanwhile, is generally deemed to be oversupplied after years of construction.

"Abu Dhabi is booming for the moment," said Mr Bolly. "But mistakes are not allowed now after the recession, so it's about focusing on the right openings."

Yas Mall is set for completion in the fourth quarter of 2013 and will boast 235,000 square metres of retail space, including a hypermarket, fashion stores, a multiplex cinema and a family entertainment centre.

Retailers such as Ace, the hardware chain, and the supermarket group Géant have agreed to open stores on the site.

Mr Bolly said a resilient recession and a strong year so far had given Dubai Holding Group the confidence to expand its stores and the number of brands across the region. Other retailers are also adding staff, stores and brands to their portfolios as the sector enjoys a stellar recovery this year.

"When you are a retail group like we are, you get phone calls all the time about new brands, but we remain extremely selective," said Mr Bolly.

Dubai Holding Group grew 10 per cent during the years of the downturn and said double-digit growth was continuing.

"Mainstream fashion has had a good year. The trend for bright colours has helped, as they work well for our market," said Mr Bolly.

rjones@thenational.ae