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Sun 14 Aug 2011 08:22 AM

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Gold Souq retailers blast renovation plans

Shopkeepers in Dubai Mall’s souq say six-month closure will hit peak sales time

Gold Souq retailers blast renovation plans
The Gold Souq is part of Dubai Mall, the emirates largest shopping centre, but has struggled to attract traffic

Retailers in Dubai Mall’s Gold Souq have been given three weeks to vacate their shops for six months of renovations that will take place during their busiest time of the year. 

The operator of Dubai Mall, Emaar Malls Group, has issued eviction notices to around 30 shops ordering them to vacate their premises by September 4 in order for them to start renovations aimed at encouraging more customers to visit the area. 

Many shop owners said the work, which they had been told would take six months, could have been better timed. The Muslim holiday Eid Al Fitr typically marks the beginning of the gold souq’s busiest period followed by Diwali, Indian marriage season, Christmas and New Year.

“They are asking us to close in September. For us the busiest time is October, November, December to February. There are five to six months when we do a lot of business for the year and they are asking us to close for that time and come back next summer during the slower period,” one shopkeeper told Arabian Business.

“This is of course the wrong decision to close the shop in this particular time. When Al Futtaim closed down some shops [in Deira City Centre] for renovations it was off peak,” said another.

“The weather is nice [when we’ll be closed down], people are on their vacations, everybody is spending and they are shutting us down,” one retailer owner said.

Retailers in the gold souq, home to around 220 gold and jewellery shops, have been battling with Emaar Malls Group for two years in a bid to reduce their rents and redesign the area to encourage more customer traffic.

Retailers said they had been told the renovations would include new entrances to the area and reduce the number of shops. A fashion outlet is also expected to encourage more thoroughfare traffic. 

“The Gold Souq hasn’t worked properly since it opened three years. Most of the customers come in to ask where the exit is. It’s badly designed, there isn’t even a single bathroom in the area and every corner looks the same,” said one retailer.

The Gold Souq, designed by Northpoint architects, was based on a traditional souk design with meandering corridors and courtyards.

“A traditional souq is supposed to be busy. But with only two entrances this place hasn’t ever been busy,” another retailer said.

An Emaar spokesperson declined to comment when contacted by Arabian Business.

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