x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Open-all-hours mall experiment in Dubai gets under way

Shopping malls across the emirate opened for 24 hours this weekend, in what many believe could be a test case for future shopping festivals.

Major malls saw a steady stream of visitors well into the early hours of yesterday morning.
Major malls saw a steady stream of visitors well into the early hours of yesterday morning.

DUBAI //Shopping malls across the emirate opened for 24 hours this weekend, in what many believe could be a test case for future shopping festivals.

Major malls saw a steady stream of visitors well into the early hours of yesterday morning, as people came for late-night dining, crowd-free shopping or just for the curiosity of seeing who else would be out.

The around-the-clock opening hours will run for three weekends - until November 2 - as part of the Eid in Dubai shopping festival.

The decision to keep the shops open was announced just two weeks ago by Sheikh Mohammed, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

It initially caught many retailers by surprise, but the majority have come to view it positively, said Fuad Sharaf, senior director of asset management in the shopping malls division of Majid Al Futtaim Properties.

Mr Sharaf, whose remit includes Mall of the Emirates, said that the 24-hour opening is being looked at as a test case. “You never know the way forward for Dubai,” he said. “Dubai is developing very fast, it’s good to test things in advance to see what it looks like.

“We want to hear the feedback and look at where the areas for improvement are. This is a test. For sure we are going to look into it and review it.

“If there’s another occasion where we will have to run the mall 24 hours, we will definitely be ready with an improvement.”

Every retail outlet at Mall of the Emirates was open on Thursday night, although many of the banks were closed. There was a steady stream of people through the mall and at about 1am it appeared to be comparable to an average Friday morning.

“I was expecting there to be more people actually,” said Amal Dabboussi, 19, from Lebanon. Ms Dabboussi came to the mall with two friends for a spot of late-night bargain hunting. “This is the best time to come shopping for clothes.”

Mohammed Ibrahim, a UAE national from Abu Dhabi, came to Dubai for the weekend to visit family and stopped by the mall out of sheer curiosity.

“I didn’t come for anything in particular,” said Mr Ibrahim, 30. “I was just curious to see what it was like.”

Maria Dialameh, 23 from Iran, was grocery shopping at Dubai Mall at 3.30am. She said the 24-hour arrangement suits her because she normally doesn’t go to sleep until 5am.

“This probably wouldn’t work in any other country,” she said. “It works here because of the culture. People from the Middle East normally love the night. They stay up all night and sleep in the day.”

Richard Adams, a retail consultant at Acuity Middle East, a market research company, said many shops would be looking at the relative benefits of opening around the clock. “I think a lot of retailers will look long and hard at how this affects their bottom line,” he said.

If the costs – especially overtime payments – of keeping shops open exceeded the profits from extra sales, then they might be reluctant to repeat the exercise, he said.

However, he thought that there would be benefits for many outlets. “We know from our own survey data that UAE nationals do seek out retail, particularly food and beverage, after 10pm. Because of this, longer opening hours are expected to result in a significant uptick in sales.”

Some mall visitors, though, worried that the around-the-clock opening might mark another advance in  ever-increasing consumerism. “It’s fine to have the malls open 24 hours during Eid, but I don’t think they should be open like this all the time,” said Douaa Elomda, 25, from Egypt, who was buying clothes after midnight on Thursday.

“I know people in Dubai love shopping, but I don’t think we should go to that much of an extreme.”

mcroucher@thenational.ae