Although Dubai Mall has barely completed two months, it has had its share of trials and tribulations. Touted as one of the largest malls in the world, Dubai Mall is deemed to be every shopper's utopia. Located in the heart of the prestigious Downtown Burj Dubai's mixed-use development, Dubai Mall is one of the most prestigious projects of Emaar Malls Group.
With a total internal floor area of 5.9 million sq ft, The Dubai Mall will offer 3.77 million square feet of gross leasable space with more than 1,200 retail outlets, two anchor department stores and more than 160 food and beverage outlets. That is equivalent or larger than the size of 50 soccer pitches. A key centerpiece of Dubai Mall is its Dubai Aquarium & Discovery Centre, which illuminates the marvels of the ocean floor and showcases one of the most diverse collections of marine animals worldwide.
Headed by the dynamic GM Mr. Yousif Al Ali, Dubai Mall has overcome its initial hiccups and is proving right every promise delivered by its creators. GoDubai gets an exclusive chance to speak with The Dubai Mall General Manager, Mr. Yousif Al Ali about the Mall, its offerings and on being the largest mall.
Q: Everyone's talking about recession, what is your view on this and is it in any way affecting mall business?
A: The governmental policies in the region have helped cushion in the impact of the global financial crisis. The retail sector in Dubai continues to grow, driven by domestic and tourist demand. The heavy footfall to The Dubai Mall is a reiteration of the fundamental strength of the retail sector in Dubai.
Q: What are the unique attractions at the mall?
A: Today malls are not just destinations for shopping – they must give the total life experience, especially with a focus on leisure and entertainment. The key is to create the right value and brand differential. With our ‘lifestyle destination' and consumer-oriented approach, The Dubai Mall is redefining the concept of the mall experience, to match the ever changing needs of our consumer.
Over 165 of our retailers – equaling 30 per cent of the total gross leasable area of the mall - are new to the Middle East region or opening up flagship stores for the first time, including Galeries Lafayette, Bloomingdale's, Hamleys and Waitrose, among others. On top of this, the mall offers an Olympic Sized Ice Rink, The Grove, Dubai's first, indoor-outdoor streetscape, Dubai Aquarium & Discovery Centre, one of the largest aquariums in the world with the world's largest viewing panel. Other firsts to the region include SEGA Republic®, an indoor theme park and KidZania®, an innovative children's ‘edutainment' concept'.
Q: There is some confusion as to the claim of The Dubai Mall being the world's largest mall; could you throw some light on this topic?
A: The Dubai Mall is one of the world's largest shopping and entertainment destinations, and is the largest mall in the GCC region. It will eventually have over 1,200 stores in total, offering one of the most premier and varied mall experiences in the world to date.
Q: Who are your anchor stores at this mall?
A: Galeries Lafayette is one of two key anchor department stores, marking the French lifestyle retailer's arrival to the Middle East, and the other is Bloomingdale's, the world famous American department store. Waitrose, from the UK, makes its Middle East debut as the mall's supermarket.
Q: What are difficulties faced while opening a mall of this size and how do you go about resolving it?
A: Developing a global landmark project like The Dubai Mall is a very complex process. It involves co-ordination with several project managers, government authorities and retailers. Communication between different teams is essential and you have to absorb a huge amount of information in order for the project to work. To see the public enjoying the final product and retailers reaping the benefit of such a forward thinking project is what makes it all worthwhile.
Q: The expanding road infrastructure is currently causing chaos on Dubai's roads, especially in the Burj Dubai area, does this affect business?
A: The Dubai Mall management team works closely with the authorities to ensure easy access to The Dubai Mall. As part of our opening, the mall opened several access roads including from Sheikh Zayed Road, off Financial Street Road (previously Doha Road), Emaar Boulevard, Downtown Burj Dubai and through the newly opened bridge off Interchange One.
We understand you have studied abroad, what are the differences in malls abroad and in the UAE, and is there something that you would like to implement within the UAE that you've seen abroad.
In the UAE and the region in general, people frequent malls regularly as a way to escape from the oppressive heat. It is not unusual for families to spend a whole day in the mall and so it is important that they can be kept entertained for longer periods of time. This is why at The Dubai Mall we have introduced leisure components such as the Dubai Aquarium & Discovery Centre and the Olympic-sized Dubai Ice Rink. The idea is that shopping malls are not just retail oriented, but are total shopping and lifestyle destinations.
Q: Every other day a new store is opening up in The Dubai Mall. By when will the mall be fully operational?
A: On Opening Day, there were close to 600 retailers operational in The Dubai Mall making it the largest ever mall opening in terms of retail numbers. Retailers are continuing to fit-out their stores and come online as they are completed with several being added on a daily basis. We expect the vast majority of the 1,200 stores to be open by the first quarter of 2009. Galeries Lafayette is also projected to open in early 2009, with Bloomingdale's set to open in early 2010. In addition to this, the entertainment precinct, which includes KidZania®, an 80,000 sq ft innovative children's ‘edu-tainment' concept, SEGA Republic®, a 76,000 sq ft high adrenaline indoor theme park and a 22-screen cineplex, will come on line in 2009.
Source: Editor, GoDubai.com