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Fri 12 Dec 2008 12:53 PM

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Dubai Mall visitor numbers 'ahead of schedule'

EXCLUSIVE: But some retailers claim large footfall is not translating to sales.

Dubai Mall chiefs have said visitor numbers are so far been ahead of expectations, but reports from some retailers suggest visitors seem more interested in window shopping and visiting the aquarium than buying goods.

“While I cannot comment on retail spending within individual outlets in the mall, I can confirm that initial footfall at the mall in its first month of trade has exceeded our expectations,” general manager Yousif Al Ali told Arabian Business.

“We particularly experienced strong visitor inflow and robust sales during National Day and Eid Al Adha, one of the high-points in Dubai’s retail calendar,” he said.

But some of the mall’s tenants have found that business is slower than they were anticipating.

“It’s not the great business that we expected it to be, but I think the reason is that a lot of shops are not open yet,” said one shop owner, who asked not to be named.

“People are concentrating more on the aquarium and all the special things, like ice skating, than really shopping.”

Traffic congestion and construction work in the area has also deterred some shoppers from visiting Emaar Malls’ flagship development.

Dina Saleh, co-owner of lifestyle boutique S*uce, which will be opening an outlet in the mall shortly, said the general consensus among the shopping centre’s tenants seemed to be that November was “quite slow” but that Thursday, Friday and Saturday were “really picking up”.

“I think it’s too soon to make a call on it,” she said, adding that retailers will have a clearer view of the situation in March, when a significant number of shops, including French department store Galeries Lafayette, is expected to have opened.

The Dubai Mall said last week that 100 new stores have come on line since it opened on Nov. 4, when just over half of its 1,200 retail units were operational.

Among those was Hamleys, the world famous toy store that has long been a favourite with Gulf tourists in London.

Hamleys chose the mall for its first outlet in the Middle East. Retail Arabia, which holds the franchise, said sales were ahead of expectations during the weekend.

“Weekdays are okay but are constantly improving as more and more stores keep opening in the mall,” chief executive Nabil Daud said.

“We have not seen the financial crisis deter parents in buying toys for their young ones. I don't think they ever will!” December had been “great” so far, he added.

Hamleys is among the stores that have seen a lot of window shoppers.

“We really do encourage people of all ages and walks of life to walk in, roam around and enjoy our store. We hope to bring out the little kid inside everyone or at least give people a few moments to forget their daily chores and let them have fun,” Daud said.

On Thursday, EFG Hermes said that consumer spending in the UAE is likely to come under pressure in 2009 as the region feels the impact of a slowing global economy.

“The slowdown in nominal private consumption growth should be far more marked than before and will be driven by a number of factors,” the bank wrote in a research note.

“The sharp fall of global, regional and domestic stock markets will dampen the increase in consumer spending markedly, as will the fall in domestic property prices.”

Growth in the tourism sector is also expected to slow, as is the demand for expatriate labour.

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nasseri 11 years ago

I went to the mall once, the only thing that is interesting is the aquarium with its short tunnel and the small discovery center, once you see them I doubt you will go back to see it again. It is even pity that they make you pay for it since it is only part of the mall and everybody should be able to go there. There are unnecessary wide spans and walkways that shoppers have to walk long way to get from side to side, the Gold Souk is a nice area although more shops yet to open, the finishing quality of the floor, roof, lighting and all accessories do no match that of Mall of Emirates, the whole mall is a disappointment.

Lee 11 years ago

I have also only been to the mall one time and do not plan on visiting again until maybe April once more shops are open. I believe the mall projected bold visitor numbers of 30 million for the first year, correct? If the mall is not seeing an average of 80,000 people per day then they are slowly but surely getting behind their projections. I seriously doubt the mall is receiving even half these numbers right now. Unfortunately a "visitor" is probably defined by Emaar as anyone who enters the mall. On the one and only day I visited Dubai Mall there were a lot of labourer type visitors who are probably not going to be spending money. I saw lots of window shopping but not many visitors walking around with bags of items they purchased. Good luck retailers... you're going to need it!

Hussein 11 years ago

Well here is the problem , since the store is really huge, an enormous place to move around, in the mind of a customer it is walk and then purchase, since this is like an appetite when you walk and see many stores next to each other for sure you will stop at one and pick up something. But here in Dubai Mall the outlets are scattered, some on the upper floor which are alone, some of them in the LG and still they are far, for sure people will go to the aquarium as this is a free thing and people can have a look, restaurants are doing excellent trade in my thoughts as I see a rush in the food court. For any business in what you call the stages of a business cycle they are moving up in a upward movement they will be more operating once the anchor stores operate.

Saleh 11 years ago

I visited the mall with my family once, it is a disappointment not what I had I had expected. The finishing is sub-standard and getting to and around the mall is confusing and not to say the least cumbersome. The shops do not have anything new than the main street shops and they are way too overpriced. The food served in the food court also are over priced and they say the reason is because of high rent. The aquarium, which is the main attraction loses its novelty once you see it and still you have to pay just to walk through the short tunnnel - you can actually see the aquarium better from outside than going through the glass dommed tunnel.

Mark Flap 11 years ago

They will do very well to attract 30 million visitors in their first year, given that only 7 million people visited Dubai last year and the government is not expecting tourist numbers to hit 15 million per year until 2010 at the earliest. I hope retail tenants did a bit of homework before signing their contracts, or they are going to be very disappointed. Perhaps journalists could also do a bit of digging and produce some numbers for these stories?

Sticky 11 years ago

Agree with all the comments here. I too have been to the Mall twice and the most I've bought is some groceries from the supermarket. Even the food court was disappointing. We had a meal from one of the burger joints and the meat was cold so I didn't eat it for fear of getting food poisoning. I have also been turned away from a number of the food court outlets who didn't have gas/ power/ burner to cook their foods... so why bother opening?

Sunny 11 years ago

I and my friends have tried 3 times to reach the mall on Fridays. When we see the long queue of cars , starting from Shaikh Zayed, we always go somewhere else. Last time we went early morning. I will not visit it again. Difficult access and huge crowd everywhere

Kishore Sasi 11 years ago

I have been to the Mall twice since it opened and on both occasion we just visited the Aquarium and the supermarket. When I visted it over the Eid holidays, i saw most of the visitors were near the Aquarium and some near the Ice rink with very little people going around with shopping bags. Another disappointment was the traffic. With just two lanes connecting the SZR on the overbridge it was tough getting into the mall. And unless you are prepared to spend time stuck in the parking lot, don't go there. A note to the management: Help your tenants who have invested millions for the prestige factor of being the Dubai Mall. If you can't convert the footfall in your mall into sales, why talk about it.

Rainigade 11 years ago

This has to be the most disappointing mall ever. I do not understand why Emaar has pushed the opening date when it clearly was NOT ready. On arrival, the surrounding area still looked like a construction yard and hence not very appealing. The signage was confusing, since they indicated areas that were not yet open, so in the end you had to follow the crowd to get from the parking to the actual mall itself. The mall is so big that you would have to plan your shopping in order to avoid the need to double back on yourself! The food court is rather massive, but when we went - they weren't prepared, there were long lines and some outlets even said that they were FORCED to open in spite of the infrastructure not yet being in place. I was most interested in the Waitrose store, but really had to WORK to find it. Its located somewhere across the parking lot, the entrance in an alley that you would easily walk by without knowing its existence. Basically, imho, Mall of the Emirates is way better. Its big, but not too big. Has a great selection of stores. Good entertainment. Nice cafes as well as the food courts and easy to access. Dubai Mall's smaller stores will probably not see much foot traffic... because when the big brand stores open (Macys, Galaries Lafayette), people are most likely to go all the way there to visit those specifically and pretty much lose stamina and interest after that! The mall is simply too darned big!

Zen 11 years ago

Come on Emaar. Please reply to all these negative remarks.