In the UK, town centres come alive. Some host small fairs, some host farmers’ markets, some are just thriving shopping areas. Well known shopping periods, like pre-Christmas and the January sales, will see thousands of people in the streets. This footfall also helps to serve symbiotic businesses such as cafes and transport.
In the UAE temperatures reach the high forties. Whilst historically, the UAE had it’s version of the high street in the form of the traditional ‘souks’ (such as the famed gold souk in Deira), increasingly UAE residents shop in malls. The bigger the better.
It’s important to appreciate the scale of a UAE shopping mall. Brent Cross shopping centre has a leasable space of approximately 244,000 sq ft. Dubai Mall’s leasable space is 5.9m sq ft.
Malls in the UAE are one stop shops. Literally. From the 13m sq ft Dubai Mall to the smaller corner malls, each one contains clothing, toys, electronics, food and drink outlets as well as entertainment, ranging from the regular cinemas and kids play areas to indoor ski slopes, ice rinks, aquariums and musical fountain shows.
The UAE’s retail provision per capita is one of the highest in the world with an existing and upcoming supply of 107m sq ft. While Dubai is dominated by the large super-regional malls, making up 52% of the total retail supply, there is now also a growing trend for smaller community malls that will also provide services such as a medical clinic, dry cleaning service etc to serve the needs of local neighbourhoods rather than the influx of tourists flocking malls like Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates.
In Abu Dhabi, community malls are about 10% of the mix, and most of the newer malls coming up are large regional and super-regional malls such as Yas Mall, Reem Mall and Maryah Central.
Developers such as Meraas in Dubai and Aldar are also experimenting with outdoor shopping formats, such as the retail development at The Beach and City Walk in Dubai or Al Muneera Beach Plaza in Abu Dhabi. Mall of the World, a mammoth 7m sq ft shopping centre planned to be delivered in phases is also said to be provided with large air-conditioned outdoor spaces.
So while we don’t have the traditional high street in the UAE, in some ways we seem to be moving closer to that.