While Dubai’s retail market reaches maturity, Abu Dhabi has seen unprecedented growth in recent years. The growing young population, high disposable incomes and recent growth in tourist attractions such as the Grand Prix have contributed to the growth of Abu Dhabi’s retail sector.
Recent innovative mall developments such as Yas Mall and The Galleria, have also created opportunities for developers, retailers and franchises. After its opening in November 2014, Yas Mall is now the second largest mall in the UAE (after Dubai Mall) with 235,000 sq m of GLA.
House of Fraser, a premium department store from the UK, opened its first ever international store at the World Trade Center Mall in Abu Dhabi in 2013 and proceeded to then open its second store again in Abu Dhabi (and not Dubai) at the Yas Mall earlier this year. Al Tayer Group has announced plans to open the first Macy’s in the UAE in Abu Dhabi as well as the second Bloomingdale’s (the first one is in Dubai Mall) by 2017-2018.
CBRE’s 2015 report titled ‘How Global is the Business of Retail?” looked at the hottest markets being targeted by brands in 2014. Abu Dhabi emerged as the #3 most targeted city in the world as 55 new brands were launched last year. While we hear of Dubai’s market reaching saturation (second only to London for brand penetration globally), it is interesting to note that Dubai still remains a preferred destination for new brands and emerged #5 on the list with 45 new brands opening shop in 2014.
With the Expo 2020 arriving in Dubai and the city projecting 20 million visitors in 2020, Abu Dhabi will also benefit from the influx of visitors because of the close proximity of the Expo site and the adjacent new Al Maktoum International Airport (on the far end of Dubai, closer to Abu Dhabi).
While Dubai remains the retail hub for the Middle East, Abu Dhabi is also cementing its position as a sought-after tourism and retail destination, especially for the more affluent clientele.