x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

The Galleria, The Mall and Deerfields to change Abu Dhabi's retail sector

The second half of the year will see the opening of three new malls in the capital.

The Mall at the World Trade Centre, attached to the Central Market Souk, is due to open in the third quarter. Jaime Puebla / The National
The Mall at the World Trade Centre, attached to the Central Market Souk, is due to open in the third quarter. Jaime Puebla / The National

Malls in Abu Dhabi are a bit like buses.

You wait years for a new one to come along and all of a sudden several are delivered at once.

The second half of the year will see the opening of three malls in the capital: The Galleria, a luxury mall on Al Maryah Island, The Mall at World Trade Centre, which will feature the region's first House of Fraser department store, and the long-awaited Deerfields Townsquare, which was due to open in May but has been delayed waiting for opening approval from the Civil Defence department.

"It's certainly interesting times ahead and we will be looking closely to see how well they will be performing in terms of occupancy," said Matt Green, the head of research at CBRE.

Analysts expect The Galleria, a 33,000 square metre luxury retail and dining destination and joint venture between Mubadala Real Estate and Infrastructure and Gulf Related, a partnership between Gulf Capital and Related; who were the developer behind the Time Warner Center in New York, will do well.

"It is where we are most likely to see an increased propensity for consumers, particularly high end, high net worth [UAE] nationals who for a long time have been doing the weekend commute to Dubai, particularly to Mall of the Emirates and Dubai Mall," said Richard Adams, a director and senior consultant at Acuity Middle East.

"We're going to see a lot more competition in Abu Dhabi and opportunities for them to spend on the products that they crave."

Add to that the addition of new food and beverage outlets in the capital, such as Armani cafe and the fashionable Japanese restaurant Zuma, and the fact that they will be adjacent to offices, the Rosewood Hotel and eventually the Four Seasons and Cleveland Clinic, makes for a potentially successful mix.

Then there is the Mall at the World Trade Centre, attached to the Central Market Souk, which is due to open in the third quarter.

The 60,000 sq metre centre will feature 160 shops with brands including Escada, Ted Baker, Sacoor Brothers and Pandora.

"The reason that it will ultimately be successful is because it has a high density of population within walking distance," said David Macadam, the chief executive and vice chairman for the Middle East and North Africa region of The International Council of Shopping Centres and Middle East Council of Shopping Centres.

Deerfields, a community mall in Al Bahia in the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, will feature about 162 stores, a family entertainment centre, restaurants and a cinema, with 80,000 sq metres of leasable space.

"There is a need for a whole range of retailing options. There clearly is an opening for that kind of mall in Abu Dhabi but it isn't likely to change the retail landscape," said Mr Adams.

However the real game changer in Abu Dhabi retail is still seven months away.

"Yas Mall is going to bring with it a huge amount of leisure and recreational and entertainment facilities, something we just haven't really seen in the market yet, something that might be able to compete on a bit more of a level playing field with the offers in Dubai," said Mr Green.

So will Dubai's malls suddenly get a lot quieter as a result of all Abu Dhabi's new shopping centres?

Not right away, according to Mr Macadam.

"Maybe in the next five or so years, Dubai may have some of their people from Abu Dhabi not visit them as often as they do today once they have a critical mass of new retail there." And many families who live in Abu Dhabi also have residences in Dubai, so they will still do some shopping while they are there.

But what about the capital's existing malls?

Analysts say Marina Mall, Al Wahda Mall and Abu Dhabi Mall will continue to do well, for now.

"However they are also going to have to start to consider and already will be considering the fact that there are going to be bigger malls coming into the market and quite often they cannibalise the new supply and take away demand from existing centres," said Mr Green.

"Some of the existing centres, they may actually lose some tenants when the likes of Yas Mall opens up. That is something we will be looking out for."