By Elsa Baxter
EXCLUSIVE: Kuwaiti retailer closes four top-end designer stores in financial centre.
Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) said on Monday it is revising its retail strategy following the closures of four top-end designer stores.
Boutiques of designers Vivienne Westwood, Jill Sander, Issey Miyake and Nina Ricci, which opened just over a year ago in conjunction with Kuwaiti retailer Villa Moda, have closed their doors in Gate Village for good.
In a statement, DIFC said new retailers are set to fill the vacant units in due course that would better suit the financial area.
“DIFC is revising its retail strategy to bring the retail offer of the shops and stores in the financial centre into line with the needs of the DIFC community and the surrounding district.
“As part of this process, some of the retail outlets in the DIFC have closed temporarily to be replaced in the coming months by companies in the pipeline of retailers, who have already expressed interest in taking space in the financial centre.”
Both the Vivienne Westwood and Nina Ricci boutiques were the first for the fashion designers to open in the Middle East region.
A Villa Moda spokesman said on Monday that a combination of low footfall and brand awareness had contributed to the store closures.
“Gate Village, while it is very beautiful, it is quite quiet, and may not be the best location for brands that are not that well known,” he said.
“The brand awareness also hasn’t responded as well as we expected. The sales haven’t done what they would do in Europe among Dubai customers. So we thought it better to stop now and revise our business plan.”
He added that the brands would have stood a better chance of building up a client base in Mall of the Emirates where footfall is much stronger.
He said Villa Moda was a recognisable brand in Dubai and there were no plans to close the men’s and women’s boutiques also in Gate Village.
He said the company was looking at its future options, which would include new brand openings, but he declined to elaborate further.
Villa Moda was founded by the nephew of the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Majed Al-Sabah. The company opened its first store in Kuwait in 1992, and has shops in Dubai, Qatar and Damascus.
The company stocks 11 different luxury fashion brands including Gucci, Yves Saint-Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Prada, Dolce & Gabann and Salvatore Ferragamo.
The vast majority of people at DIFC are (unsurprisingly) employees of DIFC based companies. They need practical stores like a decent supermarket, not some niche overpriced fashion store. In any case, it is not just the high end retail stores in DIFC that have closed, so have a number of food outlets and cafes.
I agree with Dave. It has been noticable for some time the gradual closure of retail space at DIFC. Links, De Beers, Cafe Nueva, Porsche, Du and others. The boarded shop facades do not present a good healthy picture. Dave is right in his comment about needing to have retail outlets aligned to its customer mix, a supemarket is a good idea and could build upon the success of outlets such as Scuzi. I don't think I ever witnessed a customer in Villa Moda, Vivienne Westwood or Nina Ricci.
no point in paying 50 aed for a burger or having to drive to Dubai mall of a reasonably priced lunch. @elsa baxter: your forgott that Villa Moda is partly owned by DIFC investments which might mean that they could have gotten preferential rents. The MARNI shop also looks empty.
Also seems a strange decision to open retail space in a "work" environment. Lets be honest not many people are going to buy luxury high end goods in a location such as DIFC or even Media City. Malls are where people shop in this region.....
my wife works in DIFC and for a long time she has been telling me that the shops there do not represent the needs of the workers. as far as i know not everyone who works there would not want to pop out at lunch time and buy Diamonds and designer outfits. but they do want a supermarket.
Quite interesting . Was part of a team who did consulting for company who run a chain of supermarkets and were looking at the DIFC. Quite surprised by the results ourselves... Found out that :- 1) zero sales on weekends, unless you're a restaurant or one of the new bars because mainly employees ( i.e. 2 days of the week = almost 30 % of annual rent + overheads gone to waste ! ) 2) zero sales after work hours . ( Understandable as last place employees want to be is near their office after work ) 3) EXHORBITANT rents which are non-negotiable. A totally " take it or leave it " policy , even in these recessionary times ! 4) High parking charges, 20 dhs per / hr !! Have stopped the free parking after the 1st hour deal they had before , where if you buy something inside and show them the receipt you go scot free. ( why are you charging people to shop ?!? , at least push it to 3 or 4 hours like the malls !!) 5) lots of offices closing because of the rent crash and moving to cheaper offices in Shk Z , JLT , etc.. 6) almost no business during Ramadan + none in the major holidays ( Easter , Christmas , Eid , etc... ) 7) Have scrapped the tunnel which was supposed to connect DIFC to Emirates Towers and the Rotana hotel. This would have bought customers from all the other DIFC buildings ( which are yet to be built anyway ) Spoke to several retailers there who are just waiting for their leases to expire so they can close shop ! Shame , such a pretty place but think could only be sustainable IF the surrounding buildings were built and occupied. :(
I've been here for almost a year now, and I stopped purchasing items from Scuzi due to their prices...it's daylight robbery. But now it makes sense. On the other hand, the other relaxing place is Borders, at least they haven't hiked their prices.
DIFC got their business plan 100% wrong. No one goes out spending a fortune on clothes or jewellery at lunch time. We need a decent supermarket as a priority. That will get customers in after hours and at weekends.
Having worked in the district for the last three plus years, it is a bit of a joke. The retail does not match 90 percent of the footfall profile - popping downstairs for lunch and diamonds is totally unrealistic, plus spending AED 50plus on lunch each day is just daylight robbery. I can appreciate that retailers suffer from high overheads, due to DIFC overinflated perception of their property worth, but making 200 to 300% on some items is ridiculous. The retail mix has been bizarre to say the least - excellent from the likes of Borders, Boots, Rivoli, etc, but the lengths some retailers have to go to to stay in business is sometimes embarassing - Creme de la Creme being the example.
I think it's all been said already in the posts here - DIFC retail is a total joke. The Gate Village where these brands closed doesn't even have a coffee shop - yet we are left with art galleries. Does the DIFC actually have any clue or idea what financial services workers want or need? From the retail outlets in the centre - I suspect not and they had a vision of what they wanted the centre to look like; but it is now clear their vision with regards retail is a total failure. I totally agree that a supermarket is needed - and just like similar supermarkets in places like the City in London, just don't bother opening it at the weekends.