x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

On the storefront

Mirdif City Centre and Iconic have opened in Dubai recently, giving shoppers even more retail options.

The Iconic megastore in Deira City Centre features more than 200 brands.
The Iconic megastore in Deira City Centre features more than 200 brands.

Bored with Dubai Mall? Mall of the Emirates? Ibn Battuta, BurJuman and all the rest? Don't panic. There's another mall to add to the rota: Mirdif City Centre. It's been two years in the making, cost more than Dh3 billion to build and has 196,000 square feet of space. Can't work out how big that is? Well, it's just vast. Brought to you by Majid Al Futtaim Properties, the same group that built Deira City Centre (as the original names might imply), it boasts more than 350 stores over two airy floors.

During a spot visit last week, however, it seemed that many of these stores are still to open, with plenty of shopfronts still covered by hoarding. Still, two of the biggest names there, Pottery Barn and American Eagle Outfitters, are up and running. The latter is a kind of Abercrombie & Fitch. This is its first opening outside North America, and it's a great place for bright T-shirts, demin shorts and fantastically comfortable and colourful, soft-cotton underwear. It's ripe for summer wardrobes, in other words, with prices hovering around those that you would find in Gap. (Also in situ at the new mall.)

Pottery Barn comes in two incarnations, as a grown-up store and as Pottery Barn Kids. Last week, mostly female customers drifted through the store, running their hands over everything, their eyes glinting with longing. Think white clapboard America meets Caribbean home. Shells, candles and glass hurricane lamps sit on almost every surface, cream and beige sofas line the floor, mounds of fluffy towels are shelved in one corner. There are thick patched quilts and cushions too. It's like a grown-up, more expensive Zara Home.

Other notable stores at Mirdif include a Lakeland, crammed with Good Grips kitchen utensils and other knick-knacks that you might think useful (banana guard, anyone?) and then, once home, chuck in the back of a cupboard. There's a second Hamley's, a well-laid-out Boutique 1, a big Uterque (with well-made leather belts, shoes and bags from the same group that owns Zara), a Fitness First (due to open in June), a Cinestar cinema and various other entertainment options including a bowling alley and a children's play area called Aquaplay, which didn't seem to have any water in it last week.

Best of all, the mall is on only two floors and escalators are thoughtfully placed so you don't traipse around working how to get from one floor to the next (ahem, Dubai Mall). Since Mirdif is new and less central than other malls, there were fewer people clogging it too. There are huge food courts and restaurants everywhere you turn, including More Cafe, Carluccio's, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Tiffinbites. That traditional mall smell of stale fries lingers in certain areas, but that is a small gripe, all things considered.

A bigger complaint would be the car park - it's easy enough to get in, but like trying to escape a maze on the way out. Exiting took seven minutes and involved going down a level and then up again like something out of Running Man. Better signage is needed. Within a 20 minute drive of Mirdif City Centre is another big recent opening: Iconic, a stand-alone men's and women's fashion store in Deira City Centre featuring more than 200 brands. If you can, picture Urban Outfitters. Also laid out on two floors, it's divided neatly into sections including clothes, shoes, jewellery, electronics and cosmetics. It's a good place to shop for gifts, too, with stacks of coffee-table books, cookery books, novelty luggage tags, board games, badges and pretty notepads. And there are two cafes and a salon.

And thundering music. In short, it's a teenager's fantasy. The delightful thing about Iconic is that the clothes are quirky, which is a quality often lacking in other identikit Dubai malls. Plenty of the products are inexpensive, too. Floaty, patterned summer dresses from the British label Lucy in the Sky started at around Dh100, floor-length party frocks by Philip and Laura started at Dh300. Sportswear comes courtesy of brands such as Rip Curl, Vans, Paul Frank and Billabong. The shoes are mostly like what you would find in New Look, and again will go down well with Dubai's teenage population.

The boys in particular have a vast denim section, with 16 jeans labels including Diesel, Catch Denim and Cheap Monday. A wide range of suits is available (albeit some slightly shiny-looking), as well as wittily sloganed T-shirts and several pairs of eye-catching swimming trunks by the Californian surfing brand Maui and Sons. The only blot to lay at Iconic's door is that the smiley, dungaree-wearing staff are so enthusiastic it borders on irritating. Do they loiter in your personal space because they think you're stealing something, or merely to be there should you have a question? But it's early days for the store, and given a few more customers, they may relax. Take your teenagers there and abandon them. They will be well entertained for an hour or so.