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Sun 23 Nov 2008 04:00 AM

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Inside The Dubai Mall

GM Yousif Al Ali discusses tackling the tenant mix, saturation and pre-opening challenges.

GM Yousif Al Ali discusses tackling the tenant mix, saturation and pre-opening challenges.

Stretching to 3.77 million ft² of gross leasable space across 1200 stores with an estimated 30 million visitors in its first year of trade, The Dubai Mall's general manager Yousif Al Ali has an exhilarating journey ahead of him.

"The Dubai Mall is totally different from any other I have managed during my lifespan and comparable to the biggest mall in Dubai it is four times larger," he says.

After an impressive educational background with a BA in Science and Mathematics and an MA in International Business, Al Ali completed a raft of courses in real estate and shopping malls, earning certificates from the US and the UK in marketing and shopping centre management and nine years experience at major malls in Dubai.

Retailers have benefited from the revised opening date with time for more thorough fit-outs and training sessions.

As the driving force behind what aims to be completely different from existing offerings in the city, from its 220-store strong Gold Souk, The Grove's indoor-outdoor streetscape, the dedicated haute couture precinct Fashion Avenue and the Olympic-sized Dubai Ice Rink and the Dubai Aquarium & Discovery Centre, Al Ali is confident about its future.

"Fortunately we have oversubscribed in terms of the retailers and we are still getting interest from local and international players to secure space. Looking into fine details of the project, we are ensuring that whatever retailers we have will cater to both tourists and residents and selecting those retailers was one of the challenging aspects in managing this mall," he says.

Ensuring infrastructural support and direct access to its 14,000 car parking spaces were in place involved working with Government authorities to develop a dedicated bridge from Sheikh Zayed Road to strive for a smooth traffic slow.

After the initial opening date for the mall was pushed back by two months to October 30, creating extra time to focus on road connectivity, Al Ali says retailers also benefitted from the additional time to concentrate on staff training sessions and fit-outs.

Waitrose was selected as the anchor supermarket in the dedicated FMCG cluster on the lower ground floor of the development, featuring a "market theme," he reveals.

"This supermarket caters to daily needs, while products that are usually available at hypermarkets will be across the mall. The mall has been created to meet the needs of all nationalities, ages and income levels," he says.

Al Ali says the smooth opening of the mall has been the result of effective coordination between project managers, retail tenants and Government bodies.

"We have designed the mall through clusters in different categories. If a woman wants to go and buy clothes, she can see all of those shops in one area, all of those brands available in the market at one location. She can compare the product, the quality and the price," he comments.

The opening has provided a plethora of prestigious international brands with the opportunity to make their debuts in the Middle East, including the French department store Galeries Lafayette, Bloomingdale's and Hamley's.

Fashion Avenue, the dedicated haute couture precinct features more than 70 signature stores over 440ft², and the indoor Gold Souk is the first of its kind in the world with 220 retailers.

Al Ali believes working with retailers to promote their stores across the vast space using integrated marketing tools will be important to the mall's future success. He reveals there will be potential to host year-round entertainment and fashion events at Fashion Avenue on a 20m long Fashion Catwalk with multimedia features, and retailers will be encouraged to avail of such services to showcase their portfolios.

High-tech marketing campaigns are another ‘first' for region, as retailers will have the chance to choose the customers they want to target and what time they want to "advertise through the digital directories, monitors, screens, banners".

"Today the shopping experience has been redefined; people who spend long hours in malls, especially in the extreme weather conditions of the Gulf, demand a total leisure and lifestyle experience," Al Ali comments.

In the strong attempt to cater to the demand for a total leisure and lifestyle experience, the dedicated entertainment area has introduced the children's edu-tainment concept KidZania to the region, the 76,000ft² high-adrenaline SEGA Republic theme park and the 22-screen Reel Cinema, the joint venture between Emaar Malls Group and Cathay organisation in Singapore.

The mall has grasped shopper-tainment opportunities with the Dubai Aquarium & Discovery Centre, developed by the world's largest aquarium owner and operator Oceanis Australia Group, showcasing more than 33,000 marine animals.

‘Consumers will choose which malls they visit based on the extra entertainment facilities, and considering what it is provided within The Dubai Mall, it is sure to attract a broad range of customers, and retail will invariably benefit from it," Al Ali comments.

When asked to mention some differentiators of the new mall from rivals, Al Ali points out that shoppers at the Dubai Mall find both brands already available in the market alongside new brands and "we ensure that the strongest local players will be available," Al Ali promises.

Fashion Avenue at The Dubai Mall will position Dubai as the region's fashion capital. With the largest collection of luxury retailer brands of any mall in the region, Fashion Avenue is a platform for the local fashion trade and a magnet for international trendsetters," he says.

Al Ali rejects the notion that there is a risk of saturation in the city, as "The Dubai Mall is well planned, well located and well organised. Those malls will survive and thrive. Others today are not taking into account shoppers' needs and these will decline".

"The Dubai Mall will be a dominant shopping centre. If you compare the retail area per ft² of capita in Dubai to Europe and the US, we are still below their percentages. I don't believe there will be saturation for many years to come," he adds. The new pacesetter for the city?

The Dubai Mall is described as one of the world's largest shopping and entertainment destinations, forming an integral part of the AED 73 billion (US$20 billion) Downtown Burj Dubai, Emaar's 500-acre flagship project. Dubai's Emaar Malls Group LLC is the retail and shopping mall subsidiary of Emaar Properties PJSC, a leading property developer.

At its centre is Burj Dubai, the world's tallest building. Downtown Burj Dubai already has a thriving neighbourhood of residential communities, commercial offices, luxury hotels and retail centres including the Arabesque mall, Souk Al Bahar. The adjoining luxury five-star hotel The Address, Dubai Mall has 250 rooms and 450 serviced apartments.

The Dubai Mall is well planned, located and organised, and malls like this one will survive and thrive.

The mall's Fashion Avenue encompasses more than 70 stores including Versace, Burberry, Roberto Cavalli, Hugo Boss, Loewe, Galliano, Hermes, Givenchy, Cerruti, Missoni, Tom Ford, Escada, Ermenegildo Zegna, Badgley Mischka, Pucci, Ted Baker, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Jean Paul Gautier, Valentino and Salvatore Ferragamo.

Hamleys at The Dubai Mall will occupy an anchor location of 32,000ft² and showcase more than 15,000 lines of toys, gifts and gadgets from traditional favourites to the most up-to-date toys on the market.

Bloomingdale's will open its first store in the Middle East, to be managed and operated by Al Tayer Insignia, a company of the UAE-based Al Tayer Group.

"This will be our company's first overseas location, and we expect to learn a great deal about how our brands translate internationally," says Terry J. Lundgren, chairman, president and chief executive officer of its parent company Macy's, Inc.

Armani/Casa, the home's furnishing division of Giorgio Armani S.p.A will make its first appearance in the UAE, in an exclusive partnership with Emaar Retail, the wholly-owned subsidiary of Emaar Malls Group.

The collaboration will see Armani/Casa, currently operating in 45 countries with a retail network of 80 dedicated stores, open stores across the UAE, with furniture, accessories, fabrics, ornaments and lighting personally designed by Giorgio Armani.

Get into The Grove: Outdoor shopping launched

As the city's first indoor-outdoor retail streetscape, The Grove concept features a state-of-the-art retractable roof.

The Grove has been pitched as the only precinct in The Dubai Mall where retailers' store fronts have been pre-designed to tie in with the overall open-air streetscape.

If the weather conditions are not conducive, the roof can be retracted in a few minutes using the latest transfer technology.

At The Grove, shopping and dining can be experienced year-round in a relaxing, al fresco environment with built-in design elements such as fountains, lush landscaping and upper level balconies overlooking the retail outlets.

The Grove, a themed precinct, places strong emphasis on outdoor lifestyle, sports and leisure.

The sophistication of the retail and leisure offer is matched by its retractable roof, a first for Dubai.

It will be opened in the pleasant winter months and closed to protect customers against the extreme heat of the summer months while offering the feel of an open-air outdoor streetscape, explains Yousif Al Ali, general manager, The Dubai Mall.

The Grove becomes a celebration of outdoor living in a mall environment, he says.

Retailers include Golf House, Nautica, Rockport, Greg Norman, Caterpillar, Merril, Gant, Adidas, Nike and Timberland.

At your service: The Dubai Mall heralds volunteer programmes.

As part of its corporate social responsibility initiatives, Emaar Malls Group has introduced an elite Guest Services Volunteer Programme for The Dubai Mall, whereby women volunteers can serve as goodwill ambassadors for the mall and their wages will be donated to charity.

The community initiative is open to all non-working female residents in Dubai. Each volunteer is expected to contribute a minimum of three shifts of four hours per week.

Volunteers will support the Guest Services team of more than 200 employees and will be the social and informative hub for visitors to The Dubai Mall, acting as the first line for general enquiries.

"With this initiative we hope to provide a platform for non-working females in Dubai to give back to the community while expanding their social networks. As part of The Dubai Mall family, the Guest Services Ambassadors will receive sneak previews of the mall prior to the opening day," says Yousif Al Ali, general manager, The Dubai Mall.

"They will also be the first in line for VIP tickets to high profile events and fashion shows that are scheduled to take place within the mall and furthermore they will be rewarded with The Dubai Mall shopping vouchers," he adds.

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